The following is a guest post by Jordana Rubel, assistant general counsel in the Copyright Office’s Office of the General Counsel.
You may have heard that the Supreme Court recently confirmed that you are required to register a U.S. work before you can file a lawsuit alleging that someone has infringed the copyright in the work. But what do you do if you applied to register the work and the Copyright Office refused your application?
We want you to know that you can file your lawsuit in this situation, but you must tell the Copyright Office about the suit. You are required (based on section 411(a) of the Copyright Act) to send a copy of your complaint to the Office of the General Counsel, so that the Register can decide whether she wants to participate in the lawsuit to explain to the court why the Copyright Office did not believe the work was copyrightable. A new rule that goes into effect on May 26, 2020, allows you to send your complaint to my colleagues and me by email to [email protected] instead of sending a paper copy through the mail. You are also required to send a copy of the complaint to the U.S. Attorney for the district where the court is located and the U.S. Department of Justice.
The Copyright Office also tracks other information about copyright infringement cases filed across the country. My colleagues and I in the Office of the General Counsel have worked with the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts to develop a system that will allow courts to digitally send notices through the federal courts’ Case Management system informing the Copyright Office every time a copyright case has been filed or resolved (see section 508 of the Copyright Act) or requesting the Register’s views on registration issues (see section 411(b )). Not only will this system make it easier for courts to send these required notices, it will also enable the Copyright Office to make these materials available and accessible to the public in digital format.