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Copyright Errors Might Be Fatal

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Unicolors v. H&M, 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS U.S. App. LEXIS 17097 (9th Cir. May 29, 2020)

This ruling is a big change in the way that copyright lawsuits are to be handled in the quixotic Ninth Circuit.

The copyright owner used a way of grouping copyrighted items together into a single application. Unfortunately, it used the wrong one.

A judgment for $266,209.33 in damages and $514,565.47 in attorney’s fees and costs was reversed by the court of appeals, sending the matter back to the district court. According to Section 411(b)(1) of the Copyright Act a registration certificate that contains inaccurate information or errors can still serve as the basis for a lawsuit unless “…the inaccurate information was included on the application for copyright registration with knowledge that it was inaccurate…” and “…the inaccuracy of the information, if known, would have caused the Register of Copyrights to refuse registration.” 

The Copyright Act provides a way for district courts to seek advice from the Register of Copyrights. It used to be optional, but it is now mandatory in the Ninth Circuit if the registration certificate contains inaccurate information and that the inaccurate information was included on the copyright registration application with knowledge that it was inaccurate.

Authors and artists should be careful to correctly use applications that allow a group of copyrighted works to be registered in a single application. Rules have been relaxed and allow cost effective registration if you know what you are doing.

Consider taking iPscaling’s copyright creative workshop to learn the correct way to file for your copyright registrations. It’ll get you started right, and you won’t have to lose three quarters of a million dollars to learn this lesson.


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About the author 

Chris Paradies

Florida Bar certified intellectual property and U.S. patent attorney, founder of Paradies® law, chair of the board of directors for the Tampa Bay Innovation Center and certified coStarters facilitator. West Point graduate, entrepreneur, disruptor. Father, husband, faithful steward.

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