For nearly 200 years, if you published your work without a copyright notice and without registering your copyright, U.S. copyright law provided that the work fell into the public domain. You lost all rights to challenge any infringement. Fortunately for authors and creators of other works subject to copyright protection, that is no longer true.
Under current U.S. law, copyright protection exists as soon as the work is created. The basic protection of copyright ownership no longer requires that you register your copyright registration with the U.S. Copyright Office. However, in many cases it still makes sense for an author of a work to register the copyright obtain rights beyond those in an unregistered work.
Even though copyright protection is obtained automatically when you create the work, there are certain definite advantages to copyright registration.
Here are 5 reasons you may benefit from copyright registration:
Reason #1: Registration establishes a public record of your copyright claim. Although there are other ways to establish your copyright claim, such as through witness testimony or other evidence, it is hard to beat the absolute certainty of a public record.
Reason #2: You cannot bring an infringement lawsuit for works of U.S. origin until after you have registered your copyright.
Reason #3: If your registration is made before or within five years of the date you first publish the work, the registration establishes prima facie evidence in court of the validity of your copyright and of the facts stated in the certificate of copyright registration.
Reason #4: If registration is made within three months after the date you first publish the work or prior to an infringement of the work, you may be entitled to be awarded statutory damages and attorney’s fees in a court action. In many cases, statutory damages and attorney’s fees are much higher than any actual monetary damages you would be able to prove to have occurred as a result of the infringement.
Reason #5: Registration allows you, as owner of the copyright, to record the registration with the U.S. Customs Service for protection against importation of infringing copies.
In light of the substantial benefits of copyright registration, and the relative ease and low cost of registration, registering your copyright still makes good sense in many cases.
Copyright registrations are generally simple and straightforward for most forms of copyrightable works. Forms can be downloaded from the website of the United States Copyright Office at http://www.copyright.gov. Alternatively, if you are unsure of whether your work can be copyrighted or have other questions, you should consult a lawyer for assistance.