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Copyrights must be registered before infringement suits filed

The Supreme Court has handed down a decision that could affect business owners and individuals in Colorado when it comes to copyright protection. Specifically, the Court ruled that claims of copyright infringement can be brought only after the work in question is registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. These claims can only be filed in U.S. federal trial courts. Prior to the ruling by the Supreme Court, litigants, courts and legal scholars differed over when a copyright claim has been registered.

Prior to the ruling, the district and circuit courts were divided on whether the filing of a copyright application is enough to allow a person to bring a claim of copyright infringement or whether a finalized registration is required. The Supreme Court answered the question in Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corp. v. Wall-Street.com, LLC, by ruling that the allegedly infringed work must actually have been registered before a claim for infringement will be heard.

The decision was unanimous, with Justice Ginsburg writing the opinion. Section 411(a) of the Copyright Act was interpreted as requiring registration prior to the initiation of infringement litigation. Registering a copyright can take several months, and many business owners are frustrated when they want to sue someone for infringement but then learn they must first go through the registration process. Copyright protections automatically attach to a work as soon as it is created and established in a tangible form.

An attorney might be able to help interested parties protect their intellectual property. In many cases it makes sense to register a copyrighted work before the need to sue for infringement arises. An attorney might be able to help by drafting and filing the necessary legal documents to protect the valuable intellectual property.

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