On March 4, 2019, the United States Supreme Court issued its decision in Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corp v Wall-Street.com, LLC, 586 US (2019) finding that a claim for copyright infringement cannot be filed until after the US Copyright Office has granted registration for the work.
The ruling has significantly influenced ongoing and future copyright litigation, including the claims recently filed against Fortnite game maker, Epic Games, by "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" star Alfonso Ribeiro, and rapper 2 Milly (previously reported in the E-TIPS® Newsletter here). These performers filed their copyright infringement claims against Epic Games while their applications for copyright registration were pending with the US Copyright Office.
The US Copyright Office subsequently refused registration for Ribeiro’s “The Carlton” dance, as previously reported in the E-TIPS® Newsletter here, stating that the dance is a “simple routine that is not registrable as a choreographic work.”
On March 7, 2019, the law firm representing Ribeiro and 2 Milly issued a statement, which states that, in light of the Supreme Court decision, their clients “will dismiss their current lawsuits and refile them.”
US legislation allows a copyright claimant to sue for infringement after refusal of their application for registration, provided that a copy of the complaint is served on the Register of Copyrights. The Register then has the option of becoming a party to the action with respect to the issue of registrability.
Summary By: Michelle Noonan