How to Copyright
Once an author or creative person fixes an original work of authorship to a tangible medium of expression‚ that work qualifies for copyright protection. Regardless of whether a work is registered‚ the author will have the exclusive right to copy‚ distribute‚ create derivatives‚ or perform or display the work in public.
However‚ copyright registration offers many benefits and is relatively easy and inexpensive to obtain. Registration of a copyright is necessary to pursue a federal case for copyright infringement. In addition‚ federal courts may only grant statutory damages and attorney’s fees in actions regarding registered copyrights. Finally‚ registering a copyright may be prima facie evidence of validity.
How to Register
Copyright registration can be completed online or through the mail directly with the Copyright Office. To register online‚ complete the forms available at www.copyright.gov and submit the $35 non-refundable registration fee. During the online registration process‚ applicants will receive a shipping label coded to their application. Applicants must submit for deposit a physical copy or copies of the work using this shipping slip. If the work is published‚ applicants must submit for deposit two complete copies of the work. If the work is unpublished‚ one copy will suffice. Note that the copy of the work will not be returned. It is deposited with the Library of Congress.
Registration can also be completed through the mail. For mailed applications‚ the filing fee is $50. Copies of the work may be submitted through the mail with the completed forms and filing fee. Though filing a copyright application can appear to be very easy‚ in reality it is not. It is very important that the forms be filled out correctly and if they aren’t the copyright may be voided. Our experience is that about half of the copyright applications filed without an attorney were filed incorrectly. As such‚ we recommend that you hire a copyright attorney to assist you.
Once the application is processed‚ the Copyright Office will issue a Registration Certificate. The effective date of the Registration Certificate will be the date that the Copyright Office received all the components of your copyright application‚ despite any potential delays in issuing the certificate.
The once rigid formalities of copyright registration have been greatly relaxed. Publication‚ though previously required for a valid copyright‚ is no longer required. Instead‚ unpublished works are eligible for copyright protection. Furthermore‚ while a copyright notice is no longer required‚ it is still highly advisable to mark all copies with the copyright symbol (©) and brief ownership information in the following form: © 2011 Mandour & Associates‚ APC. Because the copyright registration process is inexpensive and the potential benefits are high‚ registering one’s copyrights is highly recommended.