In January of this year, the United State Supreme Court held oral arguments on the case entitled Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corp v Wall-Street.Com. In this case, the Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corp often wrote pieces for the defendant, Wall-Street.com. The Defendant was then allowed to use them via a licensing agreement that was signed by both parties. After some time, Wall-Street.com canceled their licensing agreement and refused to remove any content written by Fourth Estate.
With Wall-Street.com refusing to remove content, Fourth Estate filed a copyright infringement suit in federal court. When the suit was heard by the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, the question arose of whether Fourth Estate could file a copyright infringement claim, since the Copyright Office received the registration applications but had not approved the registration. The 11th Circuit stated that a registration certificate had to be issued by the Copyright Office in order for a Plaintiff, in this case, Fourth Estate, to file a copyright infringement claim.
Fourth Estate appealed the claim to the United State Supreme Court, on the basis that Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corp constantly registered their works with the Copyright Office, but the delay in issuing registration (currently has a 6-8 month waiting period) was why the company had not received their certificate.
On March 4, 2019, the Supreme Court in a 9-0 ruling upheld the decision made by the 11th Circuit stating that a registration certificate must be provided before a copyright infringement lawsuit can be filed.
In the next part of this series, we'll explore what this ruling means. Please join PPA's efforts in campaigning for a copyright system that better protects photographers, consider joining PPA in the fight for artists' rights! Sign up to show your support!