Why you need to register your copyright

Glenn W. Peterson

At Peterson Watts Law Group, LLP, in California, we represent many creative people whose mission in life is to create works of art such as paintings, musical compositions, books, photographs, computer programs, or any number of other artistic work types. These works represent the intellectual property of their respective creators, and as such, need to be copyright protected from the infringement of and by others.

You may not realize it, but once your creation reaches its final tangible form, you have an automatic copyright to it. You can therefore put the copyright symbol on it. If you think, however, that this fully protects you, you are sadly mistaken.

Copyright registration

As explained by the U.S. Copyright Office, you only gain full protection of your copyright if and when you register it. Without your registration certificate, you have no real proof that you actually created your artistic work or when you created it. Consequently, should someone choose to plagiarize it, expropriate it, steal it, copy it, or otherwise deprive you of its value, you will have a difficult suing them for copyright infringement.

Registration benefits

Fortunately, you can easily and inexpensively register your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office. Once you do, you receive numerous benefits, including the following:

  • They send you a registration certificate containing not only your unique registration number, but also the date of your registration.
  • Your registration certificate serves as your prima facie proof that you created the work and own the copyright to it.
  • Your registration certificate becomes part of the public record.
  • Should you find it necessary to sue someone for copyright infringement, you can collect attorney’s fees and court costs in addition to your actual damages.

You have five years from the date on which you publish your creation to register your copyright. In this context, the word “publish” refers to the date when your creation reached final tangible form, not the date on which, for example, you formally published your book and offered it for sale. Also keep in mind that while you have five years to register your copyright, you should do it as soon after publication as possible. The sooner you register, the sooner you receive full copyright protection.

For additional information, please visit this page on our website.