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Miami Company Asks U.S. Supreme Court to Take up Copyright Case


On October 13th, 2017, Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corp., a journalism collective headquartered in Miami, Florida, filed a petition asking the Supreme Court of the United States to hear an appeal in its copyright law case.

Specifically, the company wants the nation’s highest court to resolve a circuit split that currently exists in copyright law. This circuit split was deepened early this year, when the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Fourth Estate, and found that copyright holders cannot initiate a copyright infringement claim until their copyright registration has been officially approved by the United States Copyright Office.

This controversy stems from a 2010 Supreme Court decision that has been interpreted in different ways across the different federal circuits. Here, our top-rated Miami copyright litigation lawyers explain how the federal circuit split currently stands.

Does a Copyright Need to Be Registered Before Filing an Infringement Lawsuit? 

The core question at stake right now is when exactly a party can actually file a copyright infringement claim. In the 2010 case of Reed Elsevier v. Muchnick, the Supreme Court held, in part, that a copyright holder must register their work with the U.S. Copyright Office before they can file a copyright infringement claim. As it turns out, this ruling is somewhat unclear. Indeed, the federal circuit courts have interpreted the decision is materially different ways:

  • In the 10th and 11th circuits (including in Florida), the courts have ruled that copyright holders must have already completed the copyright application process and received a formal registration before they can actually file an infringement lawsuit.
  • In the 5th and 9th circuits, the courts have ruled that a party can file a copyright infringement lawsuit as long as their application has been filed to register their work.
  • In the 1st and 2nd circuits, the courts have yet to weigh in at all, but both circuits have affirmatively acknowledged that a split currently exists.

Based on the best available estimate, it can take anywhere between six months and twelve months to have your copyright application approved. In other words, this circuit split makes a dramatic difference regarding when copyright holders can file infringement lawsuits. The Supreme Court may need to weigh in to clarify the issue. Our West Palm Beach copyright attorneys will keep a close watch on whether or not the Supreme Court agrees to hear this case at any point in the near future.

Contact Our South Florida Copyright Litigation Attorneys Today 

At Pike & Lustig, LLP, our Florida copyright litigation attorneys always stay up to date on the latest developments in copyright law. If you or your business needs copyright advice, please contact us today to set up a free review of your case. From our main office in West Palm Beach and our second location in Miami, we represent clients in copyright law cases throughout the region, including in Broward County, Dade County, Martin County and Palm Beach County.



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