Register Your Copyrights
Is it Worthwhile to Register Your Copyrights in the U.S.?
As we have previously discussed, trademark owners enjoy certain, geographically-limited rights that arise automatically upon use of their mark in commerce. Copyright owners enjoy certain automatic rights as well, and these rights apply nationwide. In light of these automatic protections, is it really worthwhile to file for registration with the U.S. Copyright Office?
In a word: Yes.
Registration with the U.S. Copyright Office affords several important benefits; and, for the costs involved (the filing fee is $35 per registered work), is well worth the investment. For artists, creative professionals, and all types of businesses, maintaining an up-to-date copyright registration portfolio is an important component of a comprehensive intellectual property strategy. The following are five of the primary benefits of registering your copyrights in the United States:
5 Benefits of U.S. Copyright Registration
1. Evidence of Ownership.
When you independently create an original work of authorship, you own all of the copyrights in your work (unless you have prospectively assigned your rights or the work is a work-made-for-hire). This is true even if you put it in a drawer or save it on your desktop and never show it to the world.
But, suppose someone breaks or hacks in and steals your one and only copy? Or, as is more common, what if someone else publishes a similar work, and now you need to defend your claim of originality? Registration with the U.S. Copyright Office can serve as key evidence of copyright ownership.
2. Putting the World on “Constructive Notice.”
In the world of copyright, ignorance can be a defense to infringement.
In order to prove that someone has infringed your copyright, you need to be able to establish that they had access to your original work. If they didn’t know your work existed, they couldn’t have copied it, which means that they couldn’t have infringed on your exclusive rights. As a result, in many cases alleged infringers will argue that they never had access to the original work.
Registration with the U.S. Copyright Office establishes what is known as “constructive notice.” Basically, once your work is registered, the world is presumed to know that your work exists—because they could have looked it up online (or in the Library of Congress). Thus, constructive notice can be an invaluable tool in both settlement discussions and litigation.
3. The Presumption of Validity.
If you register a copyrighted work within five years of the date of authorship, registration affords a presumption of validity. In infringement litigation, another common defense is that the claimed copyright is invalid (for example, because the “original” work was actually copied from somewhere else). The presumption of validity attendant to registration makes it more difficult to assert this defense.
4. The Ability to File an Infringement Lawsuit.
In order to file a lawsuit alleging copyright infringement, you must first register your work with the U.S. Copyright Office.
5. Access to Statutory Damages.
Finally, perhaps the most important benefit of registration is that it opens the door to statutory damages in infringement litigation. If you register your work before the infringement occurs or within three months of publication, you can claim statutory damages of up to $150,000 per instance of infringement, plus attorneys’ fees. If you are unable to claim statutory damages, you will need to establish your actual losses resulting from the infringement. This can make it much more expensive – and time-consuming – to pursue a successful claim.
Speak with a Copyright Lawyer at Faier & Faier P.C.
Faier & Faier P.C. provides legal representation for copyright registration, licensing, and enforcement nationwide. To speak with an attorney about protecting your copyrights, call (312) 382-9500 or contact us online today.