Computer Programmers, Architects, Web Developers, Authors, Photographers, Musicians, Artists and others must now file for and receive a copyright registration before enforcing their rights in court. In Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corporation v. Wall-Street.com (a dispute about website content), the Supreme Court unanimously ruled on Monday that copyright owners must wait for a registration before pursuing infringement claims in court. This decision overturns the law that applies to the Fourth Circuit (Maryland, North and South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia) making it a requirement to have the registration prior to filing a copyright complaint. Before this ruling, copyright litigation could be started when the copyright application was filed as long as the copyright registration was received before trial. This is no longer the case so that this author recommends that copyrights applications be filed upon the creation of the work.
The Supreme Court acknowledges that registration processing times have increased from weeks to months (currently about six months) and noted that “administrative lag” did not convince the Court to allow cases without registration. Filing early (within three months of publication) allows the copyright holder to seek attorney fees and statutory damages. If you have not filed for copyright protection, all is not lost as there are strategies that can be used to preserve your rights.