THE ANNALS OF COPYRIGHT NUMBER 6 « Law Offices of Timothy Bowles | Top Employment Law Firm in Los Angeles


Should You Register Your Copyrighted Work?

Registration with the U.S. Copyright Office gives the copyright holder the right to file a lawsuit for infringement against an unauthorized user of that work. Title 17 United States Code section 411(a). It also enables the copyright holder to claim and possibly win actual or statutory damages (set amounts not requiring proof of actual loss) and attorney’s fees if the court confirms the infringement, section 412. A lot can be at stake. Statutory damages range from $200 for an innocent infringement to $150,000 for a willful one, for each violation.

Registration places the rest of the world on notice of the copyright and can thus deter a potential infringer.

Registration within the first five years after publication can add greater weight to the evidence that the work is original and protected.

Also, many registrations are easy and low cost, achievable online for as little as $35.00.

However, there are factors that might not favor registration. The number of copyrighted works one creates is a consideration. Whether the original work is central or incidental to one’s enterprise is another. For example, a performer who writes her or his own music might well be smart to register such creations. However, a band’s creation of throw-away promo for various live performances may not be worth the trouble because a lawsuit to protect those flyers might not ever be seriously considered.

Generally, the more valuable the copyright, i.e., the larger the audience for your work and the more you stand to profit from it, the more sense there is in prompt registration.

If you do choose to register any copyrights, it normally takes some time to receive confirmation. The Copyright Office currently advises that confirmation of online registration is taking up to eight months and up to 13 months for hard copy registrations. If you have any questions about copyright, including registration, fair use or other issues, contact our Of Counsel attorney, Helena Kobrin.

Helena Kobrin, January 9, 2015