Registration and the Copyright Process

Registration and the Copyright Process

The way in which copyright protection is secured is frequently misunderstood. Copyright is secured automatically when the work is created. A work is "created" when it is fixed into a book, tape or electronic medium for the first time. Thus, for example, a song can be fixed in sheet music or in a digital tape, or both. No publication, registration or other action in the U.S. Copyright Office is required to secure copyright. However, in order to enforce the copyright and for many other practical reasons, it will be necessary to register the copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office.

Some of the advantages of registering a copyright are the following:

  • Registration establishes a public record of the copyright claim.
  • Before an infringement suit may be filed in court, registration is necessary for works of U. S. origin.
  • If made before or within 5 years of publication, registration establishes sufficient evidence in court concerning the validity of the copyright and the facts stated in the copyright certificate.
  • If registration is made within 3 months after publication of the work or prior to an infringement of the work, statutory damages and attorney's fees will be available to the copyright owner in court actions. Otherwise, only an award of actual damages and profits is available to the copyright owner.
  • Registration allows the owner of the copyright to record the registration with the U.S. Customs Service for protection against the importation of infringing copies.

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