The Cost of Honest Mistakes: Even After Unicolors, Copyright Application Errors May Still Have Consequences
On February 24, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated the Ninth Circuit’s ruling in Unicolors, Inc. v. H&M Hennes & Mauritz, L.P., No. 20–915 (Feb. 24, 2022). The Court held that a copyright registration applicant, if unaware of legal inaccuracies in a copyright application, does not submit those inaccuracies “knowingly” for purposes of Section 411(b)(2), and as such, does not lose the protections of the Copyright Act’s safe harbor for registrations with inaccuracies. Undoubtedly, the decision is a win for authors that, during the copyright application process, unwittingly submit inaccurate information to the U.S. Copyright Office (e.g., because they did not understand the law, and/or were not assisted by competent copyright counsel). That said, the decision does not do away with the risks associated with honest mistakes in U.S. Copyright Office filings, and authors should take care to mitigate such risks.