The Center for Democracy & Technology joined the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) in filing an amicus brief at the Supreme Court in Unicolors, Inc. v. H & M Hennes & Mauritz, L.P. The case concerns a statutory provision under which a copyright registration is invalid if the registration applicant had “knowledge” that information contained in the application was “inaccurate,” and the inaccuracy, if known, would have caused the Register of Copyrights to refuse the registration.
The key merits issue in the case is whether “knowledge” should be read narrowly — akin to fraud or actual knowledge that factual information was misstated — or should instead be read more broadly to encompass situations in which a reasonable applicant would have known the information supplied to be inaccurate. Our amicus brief argues that the broader reading best serves copyright’s goals and the public interest.
Improperly obtained registrations harm the public by impeding access to new works: infringement of a registered copyright can result in statutory damages and an award of attorneys’ fees, and the risk of such liability may cause authors to pay an inflated licensing fee rather than risk losing an infringement suit or choose to avoid publication altogether. Either way the public loses, whether through increased costs to access new works or loss of access altogether, while the registrant unjustly benefits from the improper registration.