Copyright registration is a prerequisite to filing suit for copyright infringement. The question is, ‘when is a copyright registered’? Is registration effective upon the filing of an application for registration, or when a registration issues? Surprisingly, this question has remained unanswered – until now. (Cosmetic Ideas, Inc. v. IAC/Interactive Corp., et al.)
Cosmetic sued Interactive, claiming infringement of a copyright to a piece of costume jewelry. Prior to filing suit, Cosmetic had filed an application to register the subject copyright, which remained pending. Interactive moved to dismiss the suit on the grounds that Cosmetic lacked the requisite copyright registration when the suit was filed. The district court granted the motion and Cosmetic appealed.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, finding the “plain language” of the Copyright Act ambiguous, looked to Congressional intent. The appeals court concluded that “registration,” for purposes of standing to sue for infringement, was satisfied by the filing of an application in the Copyright Office, as this minimized the harm an applicant would endure while awaiting issuance of a registration certificate.
So, another mystery solved. You don’t need a registration certificate to file suit for copyright infringement.