A copyright exists from the time an original work of authorship is fixed to a tangible medium. For example, if you write a song and record it‚ it is fixed to a tangible medium and you likely own the copyright. Though not required‚ it is always a good idea to use a copyright notice on your work to put the world on notice of your rights. This is particularly true if you intend to publish your work.
The first step in securing copyright protection is filing a copyright application. While official registration is not required to establish a copyright, there are many important benefits only available by filing:
1. Public Record: Registering your work puts it in the public record which can help defeat any claims of accidental or innocent infringement.
2. Preventative Action: Registration can save you time and money by allowing you to send a “Cease and Desist” letter with the backing of the registered copyright and help halt infringement faster.
3. Injunction Rights: Registering a copyright within five years of creating the works, helps establish prima facie evidence and provides you injunction rights, allowing you to temporarily halt infringing activity right away while you pursue more permanent legal action.
4. Right to Sue: You must register before you can pursue copyright infringement in a United States federal court.
5. Increased Damages: Registering your work within three (3) months of creation allows you to recover additional damages—this may include attorney fees, legal costs, and statutory damages of up to $150,000 per infringement—and can eliminate the need to prove actual damages, which can be difficult.
6. Assists Potential Licensees: Registration can help others contact you to receive the necessary permissions to license your works.
Filing a copyright not only increases the value of your work, but also notifies others that you are able to recover statutory damages and attorney fees further discouraging infringement.