On June 28, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to address the issue of whether copyright owners must obtain actual registration with the US Copyright Office (as opposed to simply submitting their application for registration) before filing a lawsuit.
The Supreme Court Justices granted a “petition for writ of certiorari” in the case of Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corp. v. Wall-Street.com LLC, opening the door to answer the long awaited question of “What exactly does the Copyright Act means when it says a work must be “registered” prior to the filing of an infringement lawsuit?”
Fourth Estate sued Wall-Street.com for reposting their articles without permission in March 2016. But a federal judge dismissed the case two months later stating Fourth Estate had filed its lawsuit before it had completed registration of the copyrights of their articles.
Several circuits allow copyright owners to sue as soon as they file their copyright application with the U.S. Copyright Office including the 9th Circuit (California, Hawaii, Alaska, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Arizona, and Guam). However, other circuits don't allow potential copyright holders to sue until they have actually obtained registration of their copyrights with the United States Copyright Office, which can take 6 months to a year.
This decision has been long awaited and will determine an important question that has been left unresolved for decades.
The case is Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corp. v. Wall-Street.com LLC et al., case number 17-571, at the Supreme Court of the United States.
* With over thirty years of experience as an attorney, Steven Lowe is one of the most highly regarded entertainment lawyers in Los Angeles. Cases his firm has handled have appeared in the Hollywood Reporter numerous times, and he has been consistently selected as a top rated attorney in Super Lawyers magazine, among other awards and achievements. Mr. Lowe is also a Co-Founder and current President of the California Society of Entertainment Lawyers, a not-for-profit artists' rights organization.
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