Copyright is a form of protection for the creative works of people in fields like music, art, theatre, literature, and architecture, among others. But what kind of protection can you get from those trying to rain on your artistic creations? Are we talking about a raincoat, umbrella, or an indoor arena type of protection? Well, that depends on whether or not you stay with the protections that are automatically given to you by “fixing [your work] in a tangible form of expression” (basically meaning to record or document your work), or you register the copyright for enhanced protection.
Registering your copyright with the United States Copyright Office requires:
a. time to fill out an application
b. a non-refundable $55 filing fee
c. giving a copy of your work to the Copyright Office to keep
Since a copyright can cover something as small as a subpage on your website, it can be time consuming and costly to register every single work you create.
However, it makes sense to register your more significant works. You might leave your book on the table while you grab a cup of coffee, but when you’re walking away from your Bugatti you lock your car so many times that the beeps sounds like a heart monitor.
Here are five key reasons why you would lock the Bugattis of your artistic works by registering them with the Copyright Office:
1) It’s your ticket to the game. Having a copyright is nice, but what is it worth if you can’t enforce it? Before bringing a lawsuit in federal court (where copyright claims are usually filed), you must register it first.
2) Show me the money. If you register before someone copies your work, or within three months of publication (see definitions link below), you can get statutory damages ranging between $750 and $30,000, or up to $150,000 for willful infringement. Otherwise you are stuck trying to prove actual damages and lost profits which is a difficult, time consuming and expensive process.
3) Establish a public record of your ownership. If someone copies your work, or accuses you of copying theirs, it can be difficult to prove who the true owner is. It’s not impossible, but putting yourself in a “he said, she said” situation is less than ideal, especially when the legal fees are racking up trying to investigate their evidence and present yours.
4) Receive the kickoff. By registering your work, you create a public record of information about the copyright including the title, the fact that you own it, and the year created. If you register before publication or within five years after “publication” (see definitions link), it becomes initial proof that your copyright and the facts stated in your registration certificate are valid. Although the other side can present evidence to try to prove they own the copyright, starting on offense gives you a strong step ahead.
5) Sorry not sorry. Registering your work allows you to record the registration with US Customs which enables customs to confiscate the wrongdoer’s product being imported.
More resources on copyrights:
General Information: https://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ01.pdf
Useful Definitions: https://www.copyright.gov/help/faq-definitions.html