On March 4, 2019, the United States Supreme Court issued an opinion that basically changed the long-standing practice of a plaintiff needing only to apply for copyright registration prior to bringing a copyright infringement lawsuit. Justice Ginsburg, writing for a unanimous court, said the law requires a litigant to have an issued registration, or a rejected application, subject to certain limited exceptions. Prior to this ruling, many litigators only filed an application for copyright registration prior to filing a copyright infringement lawsuit. However, the Supreme Court clarified the law, and made it clear that a copyright owner must have an issued registration or a refusal to register from the Copyright Office.
There are some exceptions. Such as “preregistration” for works that are particularly vulnerable to predistribution infringement, such as movies or musical compositions. Once a work is “preregistered” the owner may bring suit.
The decision can be read here.