Sometimes referred to as a “bundle of rights,” copyright law gives protection to authors of creative works (think: paintings, music, photographs, graphic design, even website code). Why bother registering a creative work? What are the benefits?
Benefits to Registering a Copyright
Though not required, there are benefits to registering a copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office. Those benefits are as follows:
- Registration establishes a public record of the copyright owner’s ownership;
- A big “presumption.” Think of a presumption as an assumed fact that the other side has to disprove. If a work is registered within five years of its publication, the owner has a “presumption” of ownership. (This means the alleged infringer will have to show that the copyright is invalid or that the owner is not the owner, instead of the owner having to prove those things);
- Registration entitles the owner to register the work with U.S. Customs to protect against the importation of infringing copies; and
- Remedies!* Think of remedies as one of the things you ask for in a lawsuit in exchange for the damage that has been done to you. (Here‘s a refresher on the remedies available to those that register their trademarks with the USPTO.) The remedies afforded to copyright owners that register their works with the Copyright Office include:
- The potential to recover the copyright owner’s attorneys’ fees. (This is a biggie, folks. Even if you hate the thought of having to file a lawsuit, this is a biggie. What’s the usual protocol if someone has ripped you off? Sending a cease-and-desist letter, of course. A cease-and-desist letter is much stronger if the recipient realizes that he could be on the hook for your attorneys’ fees if you file a lawsuit.)
- The potential to recover “statutory damages” (between $750 and $300,000 per work).
It’s worth noting that, in order to file a copyright infringement lawsuit, you have to register a work with the Copyright Office first.
In order to take advantage of the remedies available to those that register their works with the Copyright Office, copyright owners should register their works within three months of their first publication (sale, etc.) or before the infringement occurs.
“But…do I have to register?”
No, you don’t have to register your work with the Copyright Office. Registration is not a prerequisite for copyright ownership. But, for the reasons stated above, it’s something for artists and creators to consider.
The Point: You’re not required to register a creative work with the Copyright Office to have some basic protections. But, there are major benefits to registering a copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office.