Supreme Court Ruling Comes Down on the Side of Creators Who Make “Good Faith” Errors in Copyright Registration


Sometimes, the little guy can chalk up a victory in the legal system.

brown wooden tool on white surface
Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm

And that’s great news when it comes to copyright law. The legal system is not only obscure, arcane, and somewhat esoteric to the vast majority of us but it also seems like it is rigged against people who don’t have a bunch of money or are advocates themselves.

The Supreme Court of the United States agrees somewhat with a recent ruling that basically said that good faith errors in copyright registration do not invalidate copyright protection. That would seem somewhat like common sense. Whatever you call it, it’s great news for photographers and other creators.

This particular case involved none other than Swedish fast-fashion titan H&M and fabric designer Unicolors. Unicolors alleged that H&M ripped off one of their designs and took the company to court. There, H&M argued that Unicolors obtained its copyright through fraud. Unicolors won their initial case but lost on appeal; the Supreme Court decided the final verdict, ruling in Unicolors favor.

Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in the decision, “An applicant for a copyright registration—especially one who is not a lawyer—might check the wrong box on the registration documents as a result of a legal, as well as a factual, error…Given this history, it would make no sense if [Section 411(b) of the Copyright Act] left copyright registrations exposed to invalidation based on applicants’ good-faith misunderstandings of the details of copyright law.”

Have you ever had your copyright violated? What was the process like? Let us know your thoughts on the ins and outs of copyright law in the comments below.

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About Author

Kehl is our staff photography news writer since 2017 and has over a decade of experience in online media and publishing and you can get to know him better here and follow him on Insta.

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