On February 24th, the Supreme Court issued a decision in the Unicolors v. H&M case which will help allay one of the fears many of our members have when submitting an application for copyright registration: making a mistake!
For a little background, Unicolors sued H&M for copyright infringement. H&M sought to invalidate Unicolors’ copyright registration, due to legal errors made in its application. Unicolors argued that the safe harbor provision found in Section 411(b)(1)(A) of the Copyright Act prevented its certificate of registration from being invalidated.
Section 411(b)(1)(A) of the Copyright Act provides that a certificate of registration is valid, even if there are inaccuracies or mistakes in the application “unless the inaccurate information was included on the application for copyright registration with knowledge that it was inaccurate.” While it has always been understood that this safe harbor applied to good faith factual mistakes made on an application the question of whether it also applied to good faith legal mistakes has been unclear… until now.
In a six to three decision, the Court held in favor of Unicolors finding that Section 411(b)(1)(A) applies to both factual AND legal mistakes and registrations can only be invalidated if there is a finding of “actual knowledge” of such legal errors.
Some may say this decision is so narrow that it will not have much of an impact moving forward, but for you, our members, many of whom choose to register your copyrights without the assistance of an attorney and/or legal training (which was even noted by Justice Breyer in his opinion), this decision provides assurance that you can continue registering your work without fear that future infringers may be able to get off on a mere technicality.
Read more here: https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/21pdf/20-915_pol1.pdf