The U.S. Supreme Court issued a unanimous ruling in March of 2019 that says that copyright protection begins when the U.S. Copyright Office registers the copyright. Now copyright protection litigation is only allowed if the copyright is officially registered.
Before this ruling, the lower courts had different ideas about when copyright protection began. Some courts ruled that protections would begin as soon as the application was submitted to the Copyright Office. In contrast, others allowed lawsuits to proceed even if the Copyright Office rejected the application. Some others, of course, insisted that the office must issue a Certificate of Registration.
Protecting property now more difficult
Those who wish to protect images, graphics, software design or other kinds of original content will need that Certificate of Registration. So unless copyright protection is in place, it’s too late for the creator or owner to identify the infringement and file a copyright application.
Registration is no guarantee
Regardless of whether there is a Certificate of Registration, the courts may still determine that the copyright does not protect the creator or owner’s claim. The plaintiff may have to protect their business from the infringement. Conversely, those who erroneously claim broad protections may not be able to defend their claim.
In either case, those involved in a business dispute over copyright protection will likely need the guidance of a knowledgeable attorney with experience handling business disputes. Copyright law is often complicated, particularly when it comes to new technology, so the best course of action is to work with an attorney who understands the issues and can fight for them in a court of law.