New copyright case

Yesterday, the Second Circuit Appeals Court may have thrown a large monkey wrench into the copyright system. In a case involving a settlement between freelance writers and publishers, the Court ruled that Federal district courts (such as the one that approved the settlement) have no jurisdiction over cases involving unregistered copyrights. In other words, unless the work is registered with the U.S. Copyright Office, you can not sue in Federal court.
Say what? Even though a past change in the law says that copyright is created when the work “becomes tangible”, it can’t be enforced until registered?
I don’t know if this is a glitch, a technicality or a major legal precedent. It is clear that everyone is now totally confused. As the New York Times story states, “People on both sides of the dispute said it was unclear what would happen next — whether the decision would be appealed, a new suit filed, or a new agreement negotiated.”
I suspect that this will go all the way to the Supreme Court. There is likely to legislation as well. In the meantime, the Copyright Office may be flooded with new registrations.
All of this could be a minor correct to the law. Or it could be an opening for some of the newer ideas on copyright, such as Lawrence Lessig’s idea for sliding scale fee for different time lengthens of copyright protection (see Protecting Mickey Mouse at Art’s Expense).
This could get interesting.
A copy of the decision is online. Other information is available from the Copyright Settlement website.

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