One of the most important things that an author of original creative works can do is to register his copyrights with the United States Copyright Office. While copyright registration is not required for the author to own the work, copyright registration provides legal benefits of which all authors should be aware.
The most important reason to register with the Copyright Office is that copyright registration provides a public record of ownership. It is a way for the author to formally and publicly claim that he owns all rights in the original creative work and gives him the exclusive right to sell, license, publish or use the work in whatever medium the author so desires. Contrary to popular understanding, copyright registration with the Copyright Office is the only way for authors of original creative works to obtain a public record of their legal right and title to the works.
Copyright registration also provides legal benefits in the event that another person infringes, or improperly uses, any of the author’s original creative works. Under the United States Copyright Act (17 U.S.C. § 101, et seq.), before an author of an original creative work may file a copyright infringement lawsuit, the author must register the work with the United States Copyright Office. If the author registers the work with the Copyright Office within five years of publication, it is presumed that the author is the legal owner and that the certificate of copyright registration is true and correct.
Additionally, timely registration of the author’s creative works may provide the basis for an award of attorney’s fees and statutory damages in the event of a successful infringement lawsuit. Statutory damages are pre-determined monetary awards for each infringement of a copyright protected work. Without timely registration, an author must pay all of his own attorney’s fees for the cost of filing the lawsuit and may be entitled to a lesser award based on the lack of statutory damages. An award of attorney’s fees and statutory damages can be a huge benefit to authors who may be reluctant to file an infringement lawsuit because of the cost.
Finally, copyright registration allows the author to record the registration with the United States Customs Service to protect his creative works globally.
Copyright registration is a $35 investment with the United States Copyright Office to secure an author’s rights in his original creative work and to protect his ability to monetize the work. Registration functions to prevent others from cashing in on the author’s work and creativity. Because of the benefits and protections afforded under copyright law for the registration of creative works, authors should strongly consider the minimal investment required to register creative works with the United States Copyright Office.
Rachel Simes Guttmann
September 29, 2014