Tickets, Please! SCOTUS requires plaintiffs to show their copyright registrations at the courthouse door

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The U.S. Supreme Court ruled more is required than simply applying for a copyright registration and paying the fees before suing for infringement in a unanimous decision earlier this week.

Scott Graham does a nice job of sorting through what the ruling means in his March 4 piece, “No Shortcut to Copyright Registration, High Court rules,” in The National Law Journal. Clarifying that the registration process must be completed before filing a suit provides interesting fodder for law students and professors, but the decision is important only for owners contemplating a lawsuit to understand the procedural requirement.

Here’s a good way to look at it: The Court said you can’t just request and pay for a ticket to get into the game (i.e., the courtroom), you have to be in possession of the ticket (i.e., the registration) to produce it at the stadium’s gate. Don’t want to go to court? Well, don’t worry about it.

Prior to this week’s ruling, most attorneys would not have advised a client to file a lawsuit after merely submitting an application because of the uncertainty of whether the court would deem that to be enough. Now, the U.S. Supreme Court has resolved any ambiguity by saying you must wait for a final copyright registration decision by the U.S. Copyright Office.

The decision could be good news for the copyright office, which could end up with more revenue as more owners opt to pay the extra fee to expedite a registration decision rather than having to wait for a decision on the copyright office’s standard track. The copyright process typically takes over a year to complete while an expedited review can take as little as 10 days. Our attorneys are available to help anyone interested in seeking a copyright registration on an expedited track.

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