When can you sue for copyright infringement in the U.S.?

On March 4, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court settled a split between federal appeals courts in Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corp. v. Wall-Street.Com, LLC, regarding when a copyright owner may sue for copyright infringement in court. The Court unanimously held that an infringement lawsuit based on alleged copyright in a work is prohibited until the work is federally registered with the U.S. Copyright Office, rather than when the author submits the application to the Copyright Office. (See opinion of the Court.)In the U.S., federal law, 17 U.S.C. § 411(a), states that “no civil action for infringement of the copyright in any United States work shall be instituted until . . . registration of the copyright claim has been made in accordance with this title.” The dispute in this case centered on the meaning of “registration . . . has been made.” Interpreting this language, some courts previously allowed copyright owners to sue for copyright infringement as…

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