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Timing Questions Arise After Copyright Registration Ruling

05/10/2019

The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corp. v. Wall-Street.com LLC, requires that the U.S. Copyright Office must complete its review of an application for copyright registration before an infringement lawsuit can be filed. U.S. District Courts in New York and California have recently applied Fourth Estate in considering the pleading standards for a copyright infringement action.

It now appears that courts may retroactively apply the completed copyright registration requirements set forth by the Supreme Court in Fourth Estate to pending actions. But it remains to be seen whether the standards may be different for actions that were filed before registrations had been completed. Additionally, concerns that the Fourth Estate decision may result in extended unlawful exploitation of a copyright owner’s intellectual property could prompt legislative or other activity aimed at modifying the impact of the ruling.

In Malibu Media LLC v. Doe, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York considered whether a plaintiff that improperly filed suit before a copyright was registered can cure that defect by amending the complaint after the register has completed registration of the copyright. The plaintiff in Malibu Media sought to amend the complaint by listing completed copyright registrations having “effective dates” prior to the date of his original complaint. Pursuant to Section 410(d) of the Copyright Act, the effective date of a copyright registration is the date that the application is completed.

Read the full article in Law360 here.

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