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Ideas, Inspiration and Legal Resources for Artists, Filmmakers, Producers and Film Students

Copyright Registration is NOT required for Court Jurisdiction Says Supreme Court

In a widely anticipated and soon-to-be widely blogged-about Supreme Court decision, the high Court reversed the Second Circuit in the Reed Elsevier v. Muchnick case,  and found that 17 U.S.C. 411(a) is merely a claim-processing rule, not a restriction on a federal court’s subject matter jurisdiction. For years I have advised clients that the requirements of 17 U.S.C. 411(a) were only met if a litigant had a registration certificate IN HAND, not merely a pending application.

In case you think you now understand what this means, the Supreme Court reversed.  held that § 411(a) makes registration a “precondition” to instituting a Copyright Act infringement claim but that § 411(a) does not restrict a federal court’s subject-matter jurisdiction over infringement claims involving unregistered works.

Confused? Let me (try to) explain. Federal Courts need both Subject Matter jurisdiction (the claim or cause of action) and Personal Jurisdiction (jurisdiction over the parties). You DO NOT need a registration certificate for a court to have subject matter subject matter jurisdiction of your claim. You DO need a registration certificate to PREVAIL in a claim of copyright infringement.

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