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Reed Elsevier, Inc. v. Muchnick

United States Supreme Court
559 U.S. 154 (2010)


In New York Times Co. v. Tasini, 533 U.S. 483 (2001), the United States Supreme Court upheld a finding of copyright infringement related to the publication in online databases and print media of works by freelance authors. Several copyright-infringement cases hinging on the outcome of the decision in Tasini had been stayed pending a holding. After Tasini was decided, the stayed lawsuits were consolidated for hearing in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. The district court certified a class of freelance authors with at least one allegedly infringed copyright. The court then approved a class settlement. Irvin Muchnick (plaintiff) and nine other freelance authors objected to the district court’s certifications, but the district court overruled the objections and entered final judgment. Muchnick and the other nine plaintiffs appealed. Although many of the class members had registered their copyrights with the Register of Copyrights prior to initiating an infringement action, some had not. On appeal, the circuit court ordered briefing on the question of whether the requirement under § 411(a) of the Copyright Act that copyrights be registered was jurisdictional in nature. The court of appeals held that the district court had lacked jurisdiction to certify both the class and the settlement. The plaintiffs and the defendants both petitioned for a writ of certiorari, which was granted by the United States Supreme Court.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Thomas, J.)

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