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CRM 1500-1999

1856. Copyrights -- False Representations -- 17 U.S.C. § 506(e)

Although registration of a copyrighted work is not a prerequisite to obtaining copyright protection, see 17 U.S.C. § 102(a), it is, in most instances, a jurisdictional prerequisite to instituting an action for infringement. See 17 U.S.C. § 411. Authors who wish to obtain registration must file with the Register of Copyrights a copy or copies (or portions thereof) of the work to be registered, a $20 filing fee, and an appropriate registration form. See 17 U.S.C. §§ 408-410. Applications must identify the copyright claimant, explain how the claimant obtained the work, and identify and describe the work. See 17 U.S.C. §§ 409(1)-(11). On the basis of these representations, the Copyright Office determines whether to issue a copyright to the applicant. See 17 U.S.C. § 410.

The purpose of 18 U.S.C. § 506(e) is to ensure the accuracy of these copyright applications. To establish a violation of § 506(e), the government must prove that: (1) that a false representation; (2) of a material fact; (3) was knowingly made; (4) in a copyright application or any written statement filed in connection with an application. Violations are punishable by a fine of up to $2,500. No private right of action exists under this provision.

[cited in JM 9-71.001]