The United States Supreme Court yesterday brought U.S. copyright law in line with U.S. patent law and U.S. trademark law as it now requires copyright owners to have their Federal Copyright Registration before gaining access to the federal court system.

This procedure has governed patents and trademarks for a long time, but until yesterday, a copyright owner could access some federal district courts with just a pending registration in the works; in other jurisdictions, a Registration Certificate was needed. This led to inconsistent determinations as to when a case was right for review. This decision aims to eliminate this inconsistency.

Copyright owners still get exclusive rights to their work when it is published; however, they can’t sue for infringement until the Copyright Office has acted on the registration (with a few exceptions, such as live broadcast and preregistration). The Court does, however, note that a copyright owner retains the ability to recover damages and/or profits for infringement prior to registration of the works.

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