- Posted by lawyeradmin
- On July 25, 2017
The United States has found itself embroiled in another divide—not focused on politics or policy but rather over what it means to register a copyright.
As several court battles have moved forward all employing the same defenses and tactics, it is important to take a look at the current battle over the meaning of section 411(a) of the Copyright Act.
Understanding Section 411(a) of the Copyright Act…
The Copyright Act was essential in establishing much of the standards, practices, and procedures followed by the administering office and has been used as the ultimate authority for many cases in which the rights of copyright holder have been infringed. But one particular section has come under increased scrutiny for what can be considered ambiguous wording and application.
Section 411(a) states that while a holder of a copyright does not need to register their copyright with the Copyright Office as a stipulation for continued validity of their copyright, they must do so if they wish to pursue legal action arising from potential infringement.
Therein lies the major problem found by Circuit that has the considered the issue; namely, what does it mean to register a copyright? On one side of the debate, several Circuits have upheld rulings in which the validity of a registration extends from the date in which it has been formally accepted and registered by the Copyright Office. On the other side, several Circuits have upheld the principle that registration of a copyright occurs on the date of filing proper paperwork without the necessity of formal registration by the Copyright Office.
The Divide Begins…
Each side has taken what has been called either the application or registration approach when deciding cases with both sides raising significant points to support their reasoning. The Circuits standing behind the idea that registration occurs at the time of filing have pointed to the rather ambiguous wording within section 411(a) itself as the main driving force behind their rulings as it not expressly stated that proper registration of a copyright is dependent upon a successfully registered application. Accordingly, these Circuits have decided that merely filing the paperwork is enough under law to assert one’s right in court to seek damages for infringement.
The Circuits that take the position that actual registration is required before filing a case in court interpret registration narrowly; i.e., as an actual registration issued by the U.S. Copyright Office.
The issue will not be definitively settled until the Supreme Court makes a ruling, which the court declined to make the last time a similar case was brought before the judges, or Congress changes the section itself. Accordingly, the requirements will continue to vary from Circuit to Circuit.
Protecting Your Rights…
Though as the district courts await a definitive solution, as a copyright holder it is essential that actions are taken to protect your own copyright and IPR. If you are seeking assistance in filing your own registration, speak to a Copyright Attorney as soon as possible.