Why Should I Pay To Register My Copyright?

Why Register?

After reading my article discussing what a copyright is and discovering the truth about when it is established, you may find yourself wondering, "If my copyright subsists at the time my originally authored work is created and fixed in a tangible form, then why do I need to bother with the paperwork and fees of registering my work with the U.S. Copyright Office?"

Yes, this is a question we all ask ourselves, but the short answer is that you don't have to, but you very well should.  And here are the reasons why.

The Advantages of Registering Your Copyright

  1. Public Record: When you register your work with the Copyright Office, you are giving notice to the world that your work exists and that you have a claim of copyright in that work.
  2. Filing a Lawsuit: If someone infringes on your protected work and you wish to bring a suit against them for that infringement, you will need to have your work registered with the Copright Office before you can sue.
  3. Registration as Evidence: If you file your registration before publication (defined below) or within five years of publication, then the registration can be used as "prima facie" evidence (defined below) as to the validity of your copyright and the facts stated in your copyright certificate.  If that was all garbled mumbo jumbo to you, then just know that it's a good thing.
  4. Statutory Damages and Attorney's Fees: If you sue and win against an infringer you can win only actual damages and profits UNLESS you file your registration (1) within three months of publication or (2) before the infringement.  If you meet that requirement, then you can win statutory damages and attorney's fees (Yay!).
  5. U.S Customs Border Protection: A registration will allow the copyright owner to record their registration with U.S. Customs.  This will be to protect against illegal importation of infringing copies.  

How Do I Register?

You can register online at www.copyright.gov or you can register with paper forms and mail.  You will need to fill out the required application and provide a non-refundable fee as well as a copy of your work.  If your particular work is permitted to apply via online application, I highly recomment it as the fees are lower, processing times are faster, and you can log in to your account to check the status of your application.  Certain categories of works can even be uploaded online to the Copyright Office so you don't have to snail mail.

For more information on registering your work with the U.S. Copyright Office, you can visit their site at www.copyright.gov/eco or contact a licensed attorney to guide you through the process.


Publication According to the statute, “Publication is the distribution of copies or phonorecords of a work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending. The offering to distribute copies or phonorecords to a group of persons for purposes of further distribution, public performance, or public display constitutes publication. A public performance or display of a work does not of itself constitute publication.” Generally, publication occurs on the date on which copies of the work are first made available to the public. 

Prima Facie(pry-mah fay-shah) adj. Latin for "at first look," or "on its face." In other words, evidence that is sufficient to raise a presumption of fact or to establish the fact in question unless rebutted.

© 2012 Shirley Kim, Esq.  All Rights Reserved.  The above discussion is intended to be a general commentary.  Each situation has different facts and you should hire a licensed attorney to handle your specific case.  This article is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship nor is it intended to be legal advice for your specific situation.  Should you have additional questions, please feel free to contact me.


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