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Copyright Registration Required – The Supreme Court in Reed Elsevier

The U.S. Supreme Court found that the Copyright Act “requires copyright holders to register their works before suing for copyright infringement.”  Reed Elsevier, Inc. v. Muchnick, Case No. 08-103, March 2, 2010 (2010).  The Court found that the pre-suit registration requirement is not jurisdictional, but is required by the Act.  Some earlier appellate court decisions, and a sizable number of district court decisions, had held that a copyright registration was jurisdictionally required to keep the suit in federal court.

The Copyright Act clearly states that “no civil action for infringement of the copyright in any United States work shall be instituted until preregistration to registration of the copyright claimn has been made.”  17 U.S.C. sec. 411(a).  Although the Act is clear, the Supreme Court declined to address whether the sec. 411(a)’s registration requirement is “a mandatory precondition to suit” and whether “district courts may or should enforce sua sponte by dismissing copyright infringement claims involving unregistered works.”  Id . Slip opn. P. 16.

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