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Tillis & Coons Raise Bipartisan Concerns Over Impact of Supreme Court Copyright Ruling on Intellectual Property Rights

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Last week, U.S. Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Chris Coons (D-DE), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, sent a letter to the Acting Register of Copyrights raising concerns that a recent Supreme Court decision could prejudice American copyright owners and hinder the enforcement of constitutionally protected intellectual property rights.

In Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corp. v., LLC, the Supreme Court determined that, with very limited exceptions, the U.S. Copyright Office must complete its review of an application for copyright registration before an infringement lawsuit can be filed.

The Senators noted that because it takes an average of at least six months for the Copyright Office to process registration applications, the real impact of the Fourth Estate decision will be the extended unlawful exploitation of copyright owners’ intellectual property.

“A delay of several months is a significant amount of time in today’s digital economy and could lead to significant prejudice to copyright owners,” wrote Senators Tillis and Coons. “This outcome is troubling. We understand that the Copyright Office, and the Library of Congress broadly, have embarked on an extensive effort to modernize their systems and operations. We hope and expect that reducing the pendency of copyright registration applications will remain a priority in this initiative, and that the Copyright Office can return to the one-to-two-week processing timeframe referenced in the Court’s decision.”

In their letter, Senators Tillis and Coons also asked what steps the Copyright Office is taking to prevent a backlog of copyright registration claims and whether the office has enough resources to reduce the average application wait time from several months to several weeks.

Read the letter from Senator Tillis and Senator Coons here.

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