While there is no requirement that a work be registered with the Copyright Office in order to be afforded exclusive rights, there are several reasons why copyright owners will want to obtain copyright registration. But first, let’s discuss exactly what a copyright entails. Generally, a copyright is any original work of authorship that is fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyrights cover literary works; musical works; dramatic works; architectural works; pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works; motion pictures and other audiovisual works; and sound recordings. Once an original work is attached to a fixed medium (i.e. on paper, a computer file, sound recording, etc.) the author automatically becomes the copyright owner of that work.
However, there are five key benefits extended exclusively to copyright holders who obtain registration with the U.S. Copyright Office:
- Ability to enforce a copyright infringement lawsuit in federal court.
That’s right, until copyright registration is obtained through the U.S. Copyright Office, copyright owners are precluded from bringing a copyright infringement lawsuit for damages in federal court. This means, that you have no legal recourse in a federal court to prevent infringers from further using your work and recovering certain types of damages for their unauthorized use until the copyright is registered.
It is important to note that copyright registration may be obtained prior to filing a lawsuit, however, legal precedent has established that registration must be issued before commencing an action for infringement.
- Ability to seek statutory damages and/or attorney’s fees for infringement.
Copyright registration is also required in order to recover statutory damages and/or attorney’s fees for infringement. To be eligible to receive such damages, copyright owners must have submitted an application for registration prior to the alleged infringement or within three months of initial publication of the work. This is important because a copyright owner who successfully prevails in an infringement suit is typically entitled to a pre-determined amount of statutory damages ranging from $750 to $30,000 per infringement.
- Public record that you have a copyright claim in your work.
Another benefit of copyright registration is that a public record is made showing that you have a copyright claim in your work. The public record provides copyright owners with a stronger notice of their ownership claim to the entire world as it contains information regarding the author’s name and identity, the date of creation, and the nature of the work. This means that an infringer is unable to claim that they were unaware of your ownership rights, thus, notice is no longer limited to those who simply see your copyright symbol attached to your work.
- Prima facie evidence that your copyright is valid.
Filing for copyright registration within five (5) years of initial publication also satisfies the basic level of proof of validity of the copyright. While this does not guarantee copyright ownership, it instead shifts the burden of proof to the other party to prove that you are not the actual owner.
- Ability to obtain U.S. Customs & Border Protection of your registered work.
Finally, registration of your copyright gives the owner the ability to obtain further protection with the U.S. Customs & Border Protection. Registering with customs helps to protect and prevent the importation of unauthorized or infringing copies of your work.
Now that you know the benefits of copyright registration, contact Hebert-Thomas Law, PLLC today for help! My firm is committed to helping you protect your brand and butter. ™ Click here to request a consultation.