Reed Elsevier, Inc. v. Muchnick, 559 U.S. 154 (2010)
OCTOBER TERM, 2009
REED ELSEVIER, INC. V. MUCHNICK
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
REED ELSEVIER, INC., et al. v. MUCHNICK et al.
certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the second circuit
No. 08–103. Argued October 7, 2009—Decided March 2, 2010
The Copyright Act (Act) generally requires copyright holders to register their works before suing for copyright infringement. 17 U. S. C. A. §411(a). The complaint in this consolidated, class-action copyright infringement suit alleged that the named plaintiffs each own at least one copyright, typically in a freelance article written for a newspaper or magazine, that they had registered in accordance with §411(a). The class, however, included both authors who had registered their works and authors who had not. The parties moved the District Court to certify a settlement class and approve a settlement agreement. The District Court did so over the objections of some freelance authors. On appeal, the Second Circuit sU. S.onte raised the question whether §411(a) deprives federal courts of subject-matter jurisdiction over infringement claims involving unregistered copyrights, concluding that the District Court lacked jurisdiction to certify the class or approve the settlement.
Held: Section 411(a)’s registration requirement is a precondition to filing a copyright infringement claim. A copyright holder’s failure to comply with that requirement does not restrict a federal court’s subject-matter jurisdiction over infringement claims involving unregistered works. Pp. 5–16.
(a) “Jurisdiction” refers to “a court’s adjudicatory authority,” Kontrick v. Ryan, 540 U. S. 443, 455. Thus, “jurisdictional” properly applies only to “prescriptions delineating the classes of cases (subject-matter jurisdiction) and the persons (personal jurisdiction)” implicating that authority. Ibid. Because the distinction between jurisdictional conditions and claim-processing rules can be confusing in practice, federal courts and litigants should use the term “jurisdictional” only when it is apposite. Ibid. A statutory requirement is considered jurisdictional if Congress “clearly states that [it] count[s] as jurisdictional”; a condition “not rank[ed]” as such should be treated “as nonjurisdictional in character.” Arbaugh v. Y & H Corp., 546 U. S. 500, 515–516. In Arbaugh, the Court held that the employee-numerosity coverage requirement of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was not a jurisdictional requirement because the provision did not “clearly stat[e]” that the numerosity rule counted as jurisdictional, this Court’s prior Title VII cases did not compel the conclusion that the rule nonetheless was jurisdictional, and the requirement’s location in a provision separate from Title VII’s jurisdiction-granting section indicated that Congress had not ranked the rule as jurisdictional. Pp. 5–7.
(b) Like the Title VII numerosity requirement in Arbaugh, §411(a) does not “clearly stat[e]” that its registration requirement is “jurisdictional.” 546 U. S., at 515. Although §411(a)’s last sentence contains the word “jurisdiction,” that sentence speaks to a court’s adjudicatory authority to determine a copyright claim’s registrability and says nothing about whether a federal court has subject-matter jurisdiction to adjudicate claims for infringement of unregistered works. Moreover, §411(a)’s registration requirement, like Title VII’s employee-numerosity requirement, is located in a provision “separate” from those granting federal courts subject-matter jurisdiction over those respective claims, ibid., and no other factor suggests that §411(a)’s registration requirement can be read to “ ‘speak in jurisdictional terms or refer in any way to the jurisdiction of the district courts,’ ” ibid. This conclusion is not affected by the fact that the employee-numerosity requirement in Arbaugh was considered an element of a Title VII claim rather than a prerequisite to initiating a lawsuit. See Zipes v. Trans World Airlines, Inc., 455 U. S. 385, 393. Pp. 7–11.
(c) A contrary result is not required by Bowles v. Russell, 551 U. S. 205. There, in finding that Congress had ranked as jurisdictional 28 U. S. C. §2107’s requirement that parties in a civil action file a notice of appeal within 30 days of the judgment, this Court analyzed §2107’s specific language and the historical treatment accorded to that type of limitation. That analysis is consistent with the Arbaugh framework because context is relevant to whether a statute “rank[s]” a requirement as jurisdictional. Pp. 11–14.
(d) The Court declines to apply judicial estoppel to affirm the Second Circuit’s judgment vacating the settlement. While some of petitioners’ arguments below are in tension with those made in this Court, accepting their arguments here does not create the type of “inconsistent court determinations” in their favor that estoppel is meant to address. See New Hampshire v. Maine, 532 U. S. 742. Pp. 14–15.
(e) Because §411(a) does not restrict a federal court’s subject-matter jurisdiction, this Court need not address the question whether the District Court had authority to approve the settlement under the Second Circuit’s erroneous reading of §411. The Court also declines to decide whether §411(a)’s registration requirement is a mandatory precondition to suit that district courts may or should enforce sU. S.onte by dismissing copyright infringement claims involving unregistered works. Pp. 15–16.
509 F. 3d 116, reversed and remanded.
Thomas, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Roberts, C. J., and Scalia, Kennedy, and Alito, JJ., joined. Ginsburg, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, in which Stevens and Breyer, JJ., joined. Sotomayor, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.
OPINION OF THE COURT
REED ELSEVIER, INC. V. MUCHNICK
559 U. S. ____ (2010)
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
REED ELSEVIER, INC., et al., PETITIONERS v. IRVIN MUCHNICK et al. on writ of certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the second circuit [March 2, 2010] Justice Thomas delivered the opinion of the Court. Subject to certain exceptions, the Copyright Act (Act) requires copyright holders to register their works before suing for copyright infringement. 17 U. S. C. A. §411(a) (Supp. 2009). In this case, the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that a copyright holder’s failure to comply with §411(a)’s registration requirement deprives a federal court of jurisdiction to adjudicate his copyright infringement claim. We disagree. Section 411(a)’s registration requirement is a precondition to filing a claim that does not restrict a federal court’s subject-matter jurisdiction. I A The Constitution grants Congress the power “[t]o promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors … the exclusive Right to … their … Writings.” Art. I, §8, cl. 8. Exercising this power, Congress has crafted a comprehensive statutory scheme governing the existence and scope of “[c]opyright protection” for “original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression.” 17 U. S. C. §102(a). This scheme gives copyright owners “the exclusive rights” (with specified statutory exceptions) to distribute, reproduce, or publicly perform their works. §106. “Anyone who violates any of the exclusive rights of the copyright owner as provided” in the Act “is an infringer of the copyright.” §501(a). When such infringement occurs, a copyright owner “is entitled, subject to the requirements of section 411, to institute an action” for copyright infringement. §501(b) (emphasis added). This case concerns “the requirements of section 411” to which §501(b) refers. Section 411(a) provides, inter alia and with certain exceptions, that “no civil action for infringement of the copyright in any United States work shall be instituted until preregistration or registration of the copyright claim has been made in accordance with this title.”[Footnote 1] This provision is part of the Act’s remedial scheme. It establishes a condition—copyright registration—that plaintiffs ordinarily must satisfy before filing an infringement claim and invoking the Act’s remedial provisions. We address whether §411(a) also deprives federal courts of subject-matter jurisdiction to adjudicate infringement claims involving unregistered works. B The relevant proceedings in this case began after we issued our opinion in New York Times Co. v. Tasini, 533 U. S. 483 (2001). In Tasini, we agreed with the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit that several owners of online databases and print publishers had infringed the copyrights of six freelance authors by reproducing the authors’ works electronically without first securing their permission. See id., at 493. In so holding, we affirmed the principal theory of liability underlying copyright infringement suits that other freelance authors had filed after the Court of Appeals had issued its opinion in Tasini. These other suits, which were stayed pending our decision in Tasini, resumed after we issued our opinion and were consolidated in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation. The consolidated complaint alleged that the named plaintiffs each own at least one copyright, typically in a freelance article written for a newspaper or a magazine, that they had registered in accordance with §411(a). The class, however, included both authors who had registered their copyrighted works and authors who had not. See App. 94. Because of the growing size and complexity of the lawsuit, the District Court referred the parties to mediation. For more than three years, the freelance authors, the publishers (and their insurers), and the electronic databases (and their insurers) negotiated. Finally, in March 2005, they reached a settlement agreement that the parties intended “to achieve a global peace in the publishing industry.” In re Literary Works in Electronic Databases Copyright Litigation, 509 F. 3d 116, 119 (CA2 2007). The parties moved the District Court to certify a class for settlement and to approve the settlement agreement. Ten freelance authors, including Irvin Muchnick (hereinafter Muchnick respondents), objected. The District Court overruled the objections; certified a settlement class of freelance authors under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 23(a) and (b)(3); approved the settlement as fair, reasonable, and adequate under Rule 23(e); and entered final judgment. At no time did the Muchnick respondents or any other party urge the District Court to dismiss the case, or to refuse to certify the class or approve the settlement, for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. The Muchnick respondents appealed, renewing their objections to the settlement on procedural and substantive grounds. Shortly before oral argument, the Court of Appeals sU. S.onte ordered briefing on the question whether §411(a) deprives federal courts of subject-matter jurisdiction over infringement claims involving unregistered copyrights. All parties filed briefs asserting that the District Court had subject-matter jurisdiction to approve the settlement agreement even though it included unregistered works. Relying on two Circuit precedents holding that §411(a)’s registration requirement was jurisdictional, see 509 F. 3d, at 121 (citing Well-Made Toy Mfg. Corp. v. Goffa Int’l Corp., 354 F. 3d 112, 114–115 (CA2 2003); Morris v. Business Concepts, Inc., 259 F. 3d 65, 72–73 (CA2 2001)), the Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court lacked jurisdiction to certify a class of claims arising from the infringement of unregistered works, and also lacked jurisdiction to approve a settlement with respect to those claims, 509 F. 3d, at 121 (citing “widespread agreement among the circuits that section 411(a) is jurisdictional”).[Footnote 2] Judge Walker dissented. He concluded “that §411(a) is more like the [nonjurisdictional] employee-numerosity requirement in Arbaugh [v. Y & H Corp., 546 U. S. 500 (2006)]” than the jurisdictional statutory time limit in Bowles v. Russell, 551 U. S. 205 (2007). 509 F. 3d, at 129. Accordingly, he reasoned that §411(a)’s registration requirement does not limit federal subject-matter jurisdiction over infringement suits involving unregistered works. Ibid. We granted the owners’ and publishers’ petition for a writ of certiorari, and formulated the question presented to ask whether §411(a) restricts the subject-matter jurisdiction of the federal courts over copyright infringement actions. 555 U. S. ____ (2009). Because no party supports the Court of Appeals’ jurisdictional holding, we appointed an amicus curiae to defend the Court of Appeals’ judgment.[Footnote 3] 556 U. S. ____ (2009). We now reverse. II A “Jurisdiction” refers to “a court’s adjudicatory authority.” Kontrick v. Ryan, 540 U. S. 443, 455 (2004). Accordingly, the term “jurisdictional” properly applies only to “prescriptions delineating the classes of cases (subject-matter jurisdiction) and the persons (personal jurisdiction)” implicating that authority. Ibid.; see also Steel Co. v. Citizens for Better Environment, 523 U. S. 83, 89 (1998) (“subject-matter jurisdiction” refers to “the courts’ statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate the case” (emphasis in original)); Landgraf v. USI Film Products, 511 U. S. 244, 274 (1994) (“[J]urisdictional statutes ‘speak to the power of the court rather than to the rights or obligations of the parties’ ” (quoting Republic Nat. Bank of Miami v. United States, 506 U. S. 80, 100 (1992) (Thomas, J., concurring))). While perhaps clear in theory, the distinction between jurisdictional conditions and claim-processing rules can be confusing in practice. Courts—including this Court—have sometimes mischaracterized claim-processing rules or elements of a cause of action as jurisdictional limitations, particularly when that characterization was not central to the case, and thus did not require close analysis. See Arbaugh, supra, at 511–512 (citing examples); Steel Co., 523 U. S., at 91 (same). Our recent cases evince a marked desire to curtail such “drive-by jurisdictional rulings,” ibid., which too easily can miss the “critical difference[s]” between true jurisdictional conditions and nonjurisdictional limitations on causes of action, Kontrick, supra, at 456; see also Arbaugh, 546 U. S., at 511. In light of the important distinctions between jurisdictional prescriptions and claim-processing rules, see, e.g., id., at 514, we have encouraged federal courts and litigants to “facilitat[e]” clarity by using the term “jurisdictional” only when it is apposite, Kontrick, supra, at 455. In Arbaugh, we described the general approach to distinguish “jurisdictional” conditions from claim-processing requirements or elements of a claim: “If the Legislature clearly states that a threshold limitation on a statute’s scope shall count as jurisdictional, then courts and litigants will be duly instructed and will not
OPINION OF GINSBURG, J.
REED ELSEVIER, INC. V. MUCHNICK
559 U. S. ____ (2010)
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
REED ELSEVIER, INC., et al., PETITIONERS v. IRVIN MUCHNICK et al. on writ of certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the second circuit [March 2, 2010] Justice Ginsburg, with whom Justice Stevens and Justice Breyer join, concurring in part and concurring in the judgment. I agree with the Court’s characterization of 17 U. S. C. A. §411(a) (Supp. 2009). That provision, which instructs authors to register their copyrights before commencing suit for infringement, “is a precondition to filing a claim that does not restrict a federal court’s subject-matter jurisdiction.” Ante, at 1. I further agree that Arbaugh v. Y & H Corp., 546 U. S. 500 (2006), is the controlling precedent, see ante, at 6, and that Bowles v. Russell, 551 U. S. 205 (2007), does not counsel otherwise. There is, however, undeniable tension between the two decisions. Aiming to stave off continuing controversy over what qualifies as “jurisdictional,” and what does not, I set out my understanding of the Court’s opinions in Arbaugh and Bowles, and the ground on which I would reconcile those rulings. In Arbaugh, we held nonjurisdictional a prescription confining Title VII’s coverage to employers with 15 or more employees, 42 U. S. C. §2000e–2(a)(1). After observing that “the 15-employee threshold … ‘d[id] not speak in jurisdictional terms or refer in any way to the jurisdiction of the district courts,’ ” 546 U. S., at 515 (quoting Zipes v. Trans World Airlines, Inc., 455 U. S. 385, 394 (1982)), the Arbaugh opinion announced and applied a “readily administrable bright line”: “If the Legislature clearly states that a threshold limitation on a statute’s scope shall count as jurisdictional, then courts and litigants will be duly instructed and will not be left to wrestle with the issue. But when Congress does not rank a statutory limitation on coverage as jurisdictional, courts should treat the restriction as nonjurisdictional in character. Applying that readily administrable bright line to this case, we hold that the threshold number of employees for application of Title VII is an element of a plaintiff’s claim for relief, not a jurisdictional issue.” 546 U. S., at 515–516 (citation and footnote omitted). As the above-quoted passage indicates, the unanimous Arbaugh Court anticipated that all federal courts would thereafter adhere to the “bright line” held dispositive that day. Bowles moved in a different direction. A sharply divided Court there held “mandatory and jurisdictional” the time limits for filing a notice of appeal stated in 28 U. S. C. §2107(a), (c). 551 U. S., at 209 (internal quotation marks omitted). Bowles mentioned Arbaugh only to distinguish it as involving a statute setting “an employee-numerosity requirement, not a time limit.” 551 U. S., at 211. Section 2107’s time limits were “jurisdictional,” Bowles explained, because they were contained in a statute, not merely a rule, id., at 210–213, and because “[t]his Court ha[d] long held that the taking of an appeal within the prescribed time is ‘mandatory and jurisdictional,’ ” id., at 209. Fidelity to Arbaugh and similarly reasoned decisions,*