Monday, May 31, 2010

9th Circuit: Through the Brooklyn Lorgnette - EDNY USDJ Sez Copyright Application is "Registration"

"Lady Caroline Lorgnette" from Los Angeles

In Cosmetic Ideas, Inc. v. IAC, No. 08-56079 (May 25, 2020), USDJ David G. Trager from the EDNY (Brooklyn), wrote a thoughtful and sensible opinion that eliminates one of the major annoyances facing copyright litigants in a rush, but who don't want to pay the Copyright Office's spectacularly high "special handling" fees.   The case involved a cosmetic jeweler's case against the Home Shopping Network.

The issue, recently brought to the fore in the recent Supreme Court case Reed-Elsevier, Inc. v. Muchnick, ___ U.S.___, 130 S.Ct. 1237 (2010), was this:

If you file an application with the Copyright Office, but the Register of Copyrights hasn't registered it, can you file a lawsuit before you get the registration certificate?

SCOTUS noted in Reed-Elsevier, Inc. v. Muchnick that the Circuit courts were divided over the issue, but it wasn't the precise issue before them, so declined to resolve it. Reed-Elsevier, Inc. v. Muchnick decided that the Copyright Act 17 usc 411's requirement that a copyright claimant's claim be registered was a "claim processing rule" and did not implicate the court's subject matter jurisdiction.

Cosmetic Ideas, Inc. v. IAC, the Ninth Circuit analyzed seemingly conflicting provisions in the Copyright Act for clues, but didn't find the answer.  Relying on a common sense practical approach, it went with registration occurring upon the filing of the application.

I have had a couple of cases before Judge Trager, and he taught my brother at Brooklyn Law School.  He is liked and respected among the local bar and bench.

Let's hope that the Second Circuit follows the Brooklyn approach adopted by the Ninth Circuit.

Practical Implications:  In the Ninth Circuit (and those Circuits following the application rule), just apply and get proof of receipt by the Copyright Office.  With that in hand, you can sue.  For the rest of us, unless you want to be a test case, get your certificate through the Copyright Office's Special Handling Procedures (Copyright Litigation Handbook Chapter 4)

 Purchase Copyright Litigation Handbook from West here  

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