Eleventh Circuit Holds For Standing, Beneficial Owner of Copyrighted Work Need Not Personally Register the Copyright

In Smith v. Casey, No. 13-12351, the Eleventh Circuit considered whether an author of a musical composition had standing to sue for infringement under the Copyright Act, when his publisher had registered the copyright.

In order for standing to sue on a copyright in infringement claim, 17 U.S.C. § 411(a) requires “preregistration or registration of the copyright claim.” This case concerned the estate of an artist who had assigned his legal right to a work in exchange for royalties, but who did not personally register the copyright.

Citing the Fifth Circuit’s treatment of a similar issue, the Court found that “[w]here a publisher has registered a claim to copyright in a work not made for hire … the beneficial owner has statutory standing to sue for infringement.”

Therefore, the artist need not personally register the copyright in order to achieve standing to sue for copyright infringement. The Court noted that a contrary ruling would result in “redundant registrations” to establish statutory standing, which the Court found contrary to congressional intent.

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