Some basic information about copyrights: Part II

Glenn W. Peterson

In our post last week, we began a discussion about copyrights and why they are important. More specifically, we discussed claiming and registering your copyright (most original works are automatically copyrighted as soon as they are created).

So if your work is automatically copyrighted, why go through the trouble of registering it? For some U.S. history buffs, the knowledge that their work is in the Library of Congress is incentive enough. For the rest of us, however, there are other, more tangible benefits.

First of all, registering your work is a way to publicly declare ownership. This protects ownership rights here in the U.S. and in a number of foreign countries. There are about 20 other countries where public notice of copyright is necessary to ensure legal protection of the work or works.

Copyrighting also gives you control over commercial uses of your work. If anyone is going to make money from original work that you created, it should be you. Even if the copyrighted work is not being used commercially, you still have control over when/where/how it can be publicly displayed or performed.

Finally and perhaps most importantly, registering your copyright gives you standing to sue for infringement. Your work must be registered within three months of the time it was created and/or before infringement occurs. Unless one or both of these conditions is met, you won’t be able to sue for copyright infringement. You won’t even be able to obtain a court order to stop the infringing party from using your work.

As we mentioned in our last post, the Internet has made it faster and easier than ever before to share your creative work with the world. But because of this, it is especially important to register the copyright to ensure that your work remains under your control and ownership.