Copyright protection is a vital part of ensuring that your creative work is not used or appropriated for profit by someone else without express authorization. In fact, one of the reasons that copyright laws exist in the first place is so that authors, musicians, painters, photographers, filmmakers, and others have a financial incentive to create original works of authorship, and so that they don’t have to worry about their hard work being stolen after the fact. One of the best ways to make sure that your work is granted copyright protection and is safeguarded against intellectual property theft is by registering your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office. Although copyright registration is not technically a requirement for protection under federal copyright law, it is often a very good idea, and it also provides the copyright holder with many advantages.
What are the benefits of copyright registration? Keep reading to find out.
Filing for Copyright Protection with the U.S. Copyright Office
The primary function of the United States Copyright Office is to maintain all of the country’s records of copyright registration. When someone needs to determine whether a particular work has been formally copyrighted, they can search for the work’s chain of title in an online Copyright Catalog on the U.S. Copyright Office website. All copyrighted works published since 1978 are entered in the online database.
If you are the author or owner of a work, you can apply for copyright registration by filling out an application form (called a Certificate of Registration), paying a filing fee, and submitting a copy of the work that will be deposited with the Copyright Office and that will be viewable on the agency’s website. When you file your Certificate of Registration with the Copyright Office, you will need to include certain information on the form:
- The title of the work for which you are seeking copyright protection.
- Important dates, including the year in which the work was completed and the exact date on which the work was first published.
- The country where the work was first published.
- The name and address of the person or company who identifies as the copyright claimant.
The copyright application can be submitted online with the Copyright Office, or a paper application can be downloaded from the website and then mailed to the agency. You are allowed to do this at any point after creating the work. Additionally, if you register the copyright before the work has been published, you will not have to re-register the work after publication.
The Advantages of Copyright Registration
Although you can still receive copyright protection even if your original work is not officially registered with the U.S. Copyright Office, it is often a good idea to do so. Copyright registration can provide you with a number of important benefits, including the following:
- You are required to register your work with the U.S. Copyright Office before you can bring a copyright lawsuit in federal court. However, you can do this at any time – even after you learn about the copyright infringement.
- Copyright registration will create a public record of your copyright claim, which can be important later if there is ever a legal dispute about when the work was first created and by whom.
- Early registration (typically within three months of the work first being published) can give you more options when seeking damages later in a copyright lawsuit. For a work that was already registered, you can pursue statutory damages and attorney’s fees if you win your legal action, in addition to actual monetary damages caused by any copyright infringement.
- Later registration (within five years of the work’s publication) may create a presumption in your favor if the copyright is ever disputed through litigation. Basically, anything you stated on the Certificate of Registration will be assumed to be true.
- Copyright registration will give you an additional tool if a copyright infringer ever attempts to import unauthorized copies of your work from foreign countries. You will need to provide a record of your registration to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Responding to Copyright Trolls
Registering your book, screenplay, film, photograph, song, or other work with the United States Copyright Office comes with a number of benefits. Regardless of whether your work is officially registered, however, you can still be targeted by copyright trolls who claim that you do not have a right to use the work. If you have received a copyright cease & desist letter or DMCA takedown notice, you need to speak with a copyright defense lawyer immediately.
Contact the L.A. Copyright Lawyers at Tauler Smith LLP Today
The legal team at Tauler Smith LLP includes Los Angeles IP attorneys who have experience responding to copyright demand letters and dealing with copyright trolls. You can call us anytime at 310-590-3927 to discuss your case. You can also submit the online contact form to schedule a consultation.