Today the US Supreme Court handed down a 9-0 ruling in the case of Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corp. v. Wall Street.Com, LLC. The issue in this case was whether a plaintiff who had filed for a copyright but not yet received their registration certificate from the Copyright Office was entitled to file a lawsuit and have all the protections of the Copyright Act.
The Court held that a party must have a registration certificate from the US Copyright Office in order to be entitled to the statutory protections of the Copyright Act.
This then begs the question as to what about all those people who have filed a registration certificate but who have not yet received their Registration Certificate?
Justice Ginsburg, writing for the Court, noted:
True, the statutory scheme has not worked as Congress likely envisioned. Registration processing times have increased from one or two weeks in 1956 to many months today. See GAO, Improving Productivity in Copyright Registration 3 (GAO–AFMD–83–13 1982); Registration Processing Times. Delays in Copyright Office processing of applications, it appears, are attributable, in large measure, to staffing and budgetary shortages that Congress can alleviate, but courts cannot cure. See 5 W. Patry, Copyright §17:83 (2019). Unfortunate as the current administrative lag may be, that factor does not allow us to revise §411(a)’s congressionally composed text.
This is an excellent example of judicial restraint. Congress may take action to address this issue, but the Court recognizes that it cannot legislate from the bench.