There are times to pay attention to our Supreme Court’s recent rulings involving Copyright Law. We summarize two recent cases to let you know their instruction under the law and utilize effectively in your business operations.
Rimini Street, Inc. v. Oracle USA Inc.
The U.S. Supreme Court on March 4, 2019 issued a unanimous decision holding that prevailing parties in copyright cases cannot collect litigation costs outside of the statutory schedule of costs outlined in 28 U.S.C. §1821 and 28 U.S.C. §1920, which includes witness fees, clerk fees, transcript fees, and various other fees. See Rimini Street Inc. v. Oracle USA Inc., U.S., No. 17-1625, March 4, 2019. The Court held that “full costs” as outlined in Section 505 of the Copyright Act in copyright litigation are limited to these two statutory sections. The Supreme Court reversed an award of $12.8 million to Oracle granted by the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit’s covering litigation expenses outside of these statutory sections.
The Supreme Court determined that an award of “full costs” under Section 505 of the Copyright Act to the prevailing party does not authorize an award of expert witness fees, e-discovery expenses, jury consulting fees, and other litigation expenses not authorized as costs under 28 U.S.C. §1821 and 28 U.S.C. §1920.
Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corp. v. Wall-Street, LLC
The U.S. Supreme Court decided in Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corp. v. Wall-Street, LLC, U.S., No. 17-571, March 4, 2019 that only once a copyright is registered, the owner can recover for infringement that occurs both before and after registration of the copyright.
The case resolves the issue of when a copyright infringement action can be brought deciding that actions can be brought once the U.S. Copyright Office officially registers the copyright.
Before this decision, under the Copyright Act of 1976 a copyright owner was unable to recover for infringements prior to registration of the copyright in accordance with § 411(a) of the Copyright Act. However, this decision allows the copyright owner to recover for infringements to the copyright that took place prior to and after registration of the copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office.
The Supreme Court held that registration under § 411(a) occurs only when the U.S. Copyright Office grants registration and does not occur when a registration application is submitted with the U.S. Copyright Office.
Lastly, the Supreme Court also provided limited circumstances when a party may sue before registration that includes “work of a type vulnerable to predistribution infringement,” such as audio and visual works (i.e.- music and movies).