The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has reversed a district court ruling awarding statutory copyright damages for pre-registration infringements, explaining that the statute bars such an award even when the post-registration infringement of exclusive rights of the copyright holder is different from the pre-registration act(s). Southern Credentialing Support Services, LLC v. Hammond Surgical Hospital, LLC, Case No. 18-31160 (5th Cir. Jan. 9, 2020) (Costa, J.). This case analyzes § 412 of the US Copyright Act, which bars an award of statutory damages for infringements commenced prior to registration of a copyright.
Credentialing is a process doctors must complete to practice at hospitals, and credentialing service providers verify the information doctors provide. Southern Credentialing Support Services (SCSS) began providing credentialing services to Hammond in 2010, and designed two packets of custom forms for credentialing uses by Hammond. After SCSS stopped providing services to Hammond in 2013, Hammond contracted with another provider for credentialing services and continued to use some of the forms developed by SCSS. By 2017, the new provider for Hammond had also made the SCSS forms available online. SCSS did not obtain copyright registration for its forms until 2014, after learning that Hammond was still using some of the SCSS forms. After the parties failed to resolve the dispute amicably, SCSS sued Hammond for copyright infringement.