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Supreme Court’s Recent Copyright Decision Makes it Crucial to File Early

CLIENT ALERT: Now more than ever, it is important to file for copyright registrations early and often.

On March 4, 2019, the Supreme Court decided that copyright owners may not file infringement lawsuits until the Copyright Office has issued a registration certificate for the infringed work. This decision overturns the rule in the Ninth Circuit (which covers California) and some other jurisdictions which had held that copyright owners could sue as soon as they had filed their applications to register their rights with the Copyright Office.

Currently, the Copyright Office takes an average of 6 months, but often 10 months or more, to process registration applications. The Supreme Court’s decision is a major set-back for copyright owners, who, if they have not already registered their work when they discover an infringement, must now wait several months before they can file a lawsuit, or in the alternative, pay an extra $800 to receive expedited processing of an application. In our online environment where unauthorized copies can go viral instantly, even waiting the couple weeks for an expedited registration certificate can make it practically impossible to remedy the damage caused by copyright infringements.

If you create materials that are made available to your customers or the public, it is now critically important to establish and implement a regular practice of filing appropriate proactive copyright applications. Copyright registrations can be a valuable tool to protect your assets against exploitation by competitors. All types of creative expression in any media may be eligible for copyright registrations, including business documents, fictional and non-fictional texts, software code, photographs, illustrations, graphic design, advertisements, website content and designs, films, video games, and other audio-visual works. Generally, applications should be filed as soon as, or even before, your copyrightable materials become accessible. OW&E offers experienced copyright lawyers to help evaluate your copyrightable works and establish a proactive copyright registration process tailored to your business.

— Contributed by Linda Joy Kattwinkel

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