So copyright protection arises upon fixation of a creative work in a tangible medium. So why should you bother with registration with the Copyright Office? And how do you do it?
First, why get a work registered with the Copyright Office? There are actually several very good reasons. It is essentially impossible to rely upon the courts to protect your copyright in the absence of registration with the Copyright Office. U.S. copyright owners must register their copyrights before they can bring a lawsuit for copyright infringement. Note, however, that this requirement can be met by registering the copyright after the infringement. But this sort of late registration is discouraged because certain remedies under the law are reserved for those who have their works registered early. If a work is not registered before the alleged infringement, or within a short period of time following publication of the work, the owner of the copyright cannot receive what are known as "statutory damages". Further, late registrants are not eligible to receive attorney fees. I'll discuss these remedies later. For now, suffice it to say that statutory damages and attorney fees can be very important in copyright litigation.
So you need to register your work to file a lawsuit and get statutory damages and attorney fees. What do you have to do? The owner of a copyright may register his work with the Copyright Office at any time. Such registration includes completing an application and filing it with the Copyright Office along with copies of the work. There is no rigorous examination of copyright applications, but those applications that are not in compliance with the requirements are rejected. If the work is published, Copyright regulations require submission of copies of the work within three months of publication to the Library of Congress as well.
Next time, we'll talk about the duration of copyright protection. If you have any questions about copyright law, email us or post them on the blog. The email is JDellinger@mainspringlaw.com. We also have a free pamphlet discussing copyright law as it effects small businesses and individuals.