By: Jeffrey G. Sheldon, Esq.
A common misconception is it is necessary to register a copyright to have protection. In fact, copyright protection exists in the US immediately upon creation of a work that qualifies for copyright protection. Registration is not needed.
That said, even though registration is not a requirement for protection, the copyright law provides several advantages to encourage copyright owners to register their copyrights. Among these advantages are:
• Registration establishes a public record of the copyright claim.
• Some courts may require registration for works of U.S. origin before an infringement suit can be filed.
• Registration before or within five years of publication establishes a presumption in court of the validity of the copyright and of the facts stated in the certificate.
• Registration within three months after publication of the work or prior to an infringement of the work makes all potential remedies available to the copyright owner in a court action, including statutory damages and attorney’s fees, which often are the most valuable remedies. Otherwise, only an award of actual damages and the infringer’s profits is available to the copyright owner.
• Registration allows the owner of the copyright to record the registration with the U.S. Customs Service for protection against the importation of infringing copies.
So we frequently help clients obtain a copyright registration in the following instances:
The product being sold itself is subject to copyright protection such as toys, software, architectural works, artwork, music, and audiovisual works
A competitor may copy the work such as photographs and text on a web site
An employee may steal the work when departing such as a database, product drawing, or internally used software (it is possible to maintain the confidentiality of the work and still get a copyright registration)