Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors | Last reviewed December 22, 2016
A copyright provides protection to original works of authorship, more specifically the "form of material expression." Although there were previously various requirements to receive copyright protection, under the current U.S. copyright laws, a work receives copyright protection automatically when it's fixed into a tangible form. Currently, copyright registration and notice of copyright are not conditions to copyright protection, but the process offers a variety of advantages. This article will discuss the advantages of copyright registration and the date that the registration is effective.
Advantages of Copyright Registration
In general, copyright registration is a legal formality intended to make a public record of a particular copyright. Even though registration is not a requirement for protection, the copyright laws of the United States provide several advantages to encourage copyright owners to register their copyright. The following are just a few advantages of registering your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office:
- Registering a copyright establishes a public record of the copyright claim, and puts the public on notice of the existence of copyright protection for a particular work.
- For works of U.S. origin, registering with the U.S. Copyright Office is necessary before an infringement lawsuit may be filed in court.
- If copyright registration is made within five years of the work's publication, it will establish the validity of the copyright and of the facts stated in the copyright certificate.
- If a copyright is registered within three months of publishing the work or prior to an infringement of the work, the copyright owner can seek attorneys' fees and statutory damages in court. For works registered outside of this time limit, the damages will be limited the actual loss suffered by the owner of the copyright.
- Registering your copyright also allows you to record the registration with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection for protection against the importation of infringing copies.
A copyright owner can register his or her copyright at any time within the life of the copyright. Before 1978, if a work was registered in unpublished form, it was necessary to register it again after publishing the work. Under current laws, a copyright owner has the option but not the obligation to register the published edition of the work.
When Is Copyright Registration Effective?
To register a copyright, a person must submit an application to the U.S. Copyright Office. This application generally consists of the application form, a copy of your work (which is non-returnable), and a non-refundable filing fee. The application for copyright registration can be done through the mail or online through the electronic Copyright Office (eCO).
Copyright registration is effective once the Copyright Office receives all of the required elements of an application in an acceptable form. This means that regardless of how long the processing time is for a copyright to be officially registered, the effective date of registration date is the date on which the application is received. For paper applications, the Copyright Office does not send out an acknowledgement of receipt, so it's best to use a mail service that provides confirmation of delivery. If the copyright registration application is submitted electronically, the applicant will receive email confirmations of each completed step of the application process.
Getting Legal Help
If you have questions about copyright registration or would like help with any other aspect of copyrighting your work or legally using someone else's work, you may want to contact an experienced intellectual property lawyer near you.
For more information or resources related to this topic, you can visit FindLaw's Copyrights section.
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