The Supreme Court recently handed down a clarification on copyright law. With rulings in the circuit courts that contradict each other, the highest court ruled 9-0 that copyright infringement claims are only valid once registered with the U.S. Copyright Office.
Circuits saw it differently
Before this recent ruling, the Fifth and Ninth Circuit ruled that copyright protection could begin as early as when submitting the copyright application to the U.S. Copyright Office, and the accompanying fees were paid. Sometimes the copyright was even enforced using a rejected application. The Tenth and Eleventh Circuits, however, ruled that copyright protection began when the Copyright Office issued its Certificate of Registration, which typically happened after about seven weeks.
Creators and inventors beware
The average person may have felt secure enough in ownership that they deemed it too costly and unnecessary for defending an infringement. Critics say that the seven-week waiting period is an eternity in the digital age where images, music, content, computer code, technology, and other copyrighted materials could be illegally shared online. In their eyes, this breach would lead to a devaluing of a product or an outright theft of ideas.
Legal protection is still available
This ruling makes it clear that inventors or content creators will need to formally protect your intellectual property if you wish to have legal recourse. A knowledgeable copyright attorney can guide owners through the application process. This can be done on a case by case basis or automatically with each new product. Either way, these are the smart and enforceable ways to protect products from any form of infringement.