March 2019: Copyright Registration as a Prerequisite to a Lawsuit

On March 4, 2019, the Supreme Court resolved an issue on which the various federal circuit courts were split:  can a copyright plaintiff bring a lawsuit once they have filed an application for registration with the Copyright Office, or must they wait until the registration has issued?  In the case of Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corp v. Wall-Street.com LLC, the Supreme Court ruled that except in rare circumstances, a copyright plaintiff must first obtain a copyright registration from the Copyright Office before initiating a lawsuit for copyright infringement.

Currently, it often takes many months for the Copyright Office to review a copyright application.  In view of this ruling, apart from other benefits for seeking early registration, copyright owners may desire to register their works as soon as possible.

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