A work of originality is automatically protected by copyrights. “Original works of authorship” include paintings, illustrations, sculptures, photographs, books, articles, poems, songs, recordings, logos, website content, and software code. An author of a work owns the copyright automatically and is entitled to immediate protection. Exclusive rights are given to the owner of copyrights to reproduce, distribute, and prepare derivative works based on the original work. Furthermore, they have the right to perform, exhibit, and broadcast the work. The owner of a copyright may grant exclusive usage rights to another party under certain conditions.
When a copyright arises automatically, why would anyone make the additional effort to register the rights with the U.S. Office of Copyrights?
The key to enhancing copyright value is through registration. By registering, the copyright value is enhanced in a number of ways.
Ownership records available to the public
A copyright registration serves as a public record of copyright ownership. Claims of ownership often arise in copyright disputes. Regardless of whether a alleged infringer claims to be a creator, the owner of the copyright still has the burden of proving that it is the legitimate owner of the copyrights if it wishes to prevail on a copyright infringement claim.
A record may also serve as a defensive measure for would-be infringers who are educated enough to check copyright registrations and may want to use content without permission. In the event ownership is contested in the future, having a public record proving one’s copyright claim will go a long way towards demonstrating ownership.
You must have it, right?
A registration before or within five years of the publication of a work establishes the validity of the copyrights as well as the details stated in the registration certificate, such as the rights holder’s identity. Copyright ownership must be established by naming the owner of the copyright who is seeking to challenge it. This presumption may be invoked by a trademark infringement if the offense damages the trademark seriously and irreparably, and requires immediate legal action.
A law suit for copyright infringement might help enforce copyright rights
One of the greatest benefits of registering copyrights is the ability to bring a lawsuit if the rights are violated. Once the US Copyright Office has issued a registration, a copyright owner may sue to enforce/protect their rights. Most of the time, the Copyright Office will issue a registration within about seven months of receiving an application. However, sometimes it may take longer. Even though an expedited review may be requested (at an additional charge), additional time can be extremely expensive, especially when a serious infringer is causing harm to others.
A lawsuit based on copyright infringement must be registered before being brought. A registration, therefore, gives an alleged infringer more credibility when or if a cease-and-desist letter must be served. Owners of copyrights will likely file their own lawsuits. Those who can act swiftly and immediately have a stronger position over those who have to wait several months. Moreover, as described below, registering before infringement can net significant financial benefits if someone subsequently violates the copyrights.
Your eligibility for statutory damages, attorney fees, and other litigation costs
In order to receive statutory damages, the owner of a copyright must have registered the right prior to the infringement (or within three months after publication). In cases involving copyright infringement, this is especially important because proving damages can be difficult. In the case of a statutory damage award, the copyright owner is entitled to a certain amount per work infringed, regardless of whether or not the owner can prove actual damages. These additional damages may provide leverage that can prompt a lawsuit to be settled early, before significant costs are incurred.
In addition, a copyright owner can also request an award of attorney fees and costs if they register during this time period.
A prohibition on the importation of infringing works
The owners of registered copyrights may be allowed to participate in a U.S. federal program, known as Customs and Border Protection (CBP), for the purpose of seizing and imprisoning foreign goods infringing on U.S. intellectual property rights. Participants in this program must register.
As a conclusion
Though copyrights are automatically conferred upon the creator of an original work of authorship, registering them with the U.S. Intellectual Property Office can significantly increase the value of the rights. Registration enables the right holder to prove ownership. Sometimes, it creates a presumption of ownership that can be helpful for enforcing copyright rights. When you register, a copyright infringement lawsuit might be necessary. There are times when the holder of a copyright is entitled to statutory damages, attorneys’ fees, and legal expenses. Registrant owners of copyrights can work with U.S. customs to seize illegal imports. The costs of registering are not too high.
Copyright owners are strongly recommended to register their rights when their work is of great value. The registration of a work is especially beneficial if it is used in the operations of a business or is part of other profitable endeavors.