The US Supreme Court ruled Monday in Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corp. v. Wall-Street.com, LLC that once a copyright is registered, the owner can recover retroactively for infringement.
The Copyright Act of 1976 enabled an owner to have rights over their material, but they were unable to recover for infringements prior to registration of the copyright in accordance with § 411(a) of the Act. The decision Monday resolves this issue by allowing the copyright owner to recover for infringements to the copyright that took place prior to the registration of the copyright under § 411(a).
The court held that registration under § 411(a) occurs only when the Copyright Office grants registration. It does not occur when the party submits their application for registration.
The court also laid out limited circumstances when a party may sue before registration. These circumstances include “work of a type vulnerable to predistribution infringement,” such as movies or music.
This decision affirms the judgement of the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, which held in favor of Wall-Street.com, LLC.