The Supreme Court unanimously ruled on Monday that a copyright owner cannot institute a copyright infringement lawsuit until the Copyright Office has acted on the infringed work’s application for registration – either by registering the work at issue or refusing registration. This clears up a long-standing split amongst the Federal Circuit Courts, some of which allowed applicants to file suit for copyright infringement upon filing an application (along with a deposit and fee) to register the (allegedly) infringed work.
This means that if you find out someone has infringed (e.g., copied, distributed, etc.) your photo, book, painting, article, song, or other copyrightable work, you will have to complete the registration process before filing suit for infringement. The registration process generally takes about seven months, unless you pay an additional fee (currently $800) for rush processing. So, it makes sense to file as soon as possible – not only to avoid waiting seven months or paying $800 to file suit, but also because timely registration makes you eligible for statutory damages of up to $150,000 per infringed work and attorneys’ fees.
If you have any questions about registration or need help registering your copyrights, please contact us here.