Copyright Litigation May Commence Without First Obtaining Registration

In order to commence a copyright infringement action in federal court, under 17 U.S.C. § 411(a), makes registration of a copyright a prerequisite prior to bringing an infringement suit. But in a May 2010, Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit case, Cosmetic Ideas, Inc. v. IAC/Interactive Corp., has held otherwise. The case was an appeal from a U.S. District Court, California Central District case in which Cosmetic Ideas, Inc. sued the Home Shopping Network for copyright infringement involving a necklace. Cosmetic Ideas submitted a copyright application for a necklace, and then sued HSN before getting an official registration from the U.S. Copyright Office.

Initially the case was dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because of the lack of a registered copyright. The Ninth Circuit court then later overturned that decision. The 9th Circuit court found that a copyright is actually considered registered once the application has been submitted and stated “that receipt by the Copyright Office of a complete application satisfies the registration requirement of § 411(a).”

Their reasoning was that Congress’s purpose for copyrights was to protect intellectual property in exactly this scenario. Cosmetic Ideas may have had to wait several months before their copyright was officially registered. And theoretically, during that time, nothing could be done to stop copyright infringers. The issue of speed of information in the post-internet world is likely to affect similar statutes. And this is probably not the last time we’ll hear about this specific case.

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