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Should You Register Your Copyrights?

by | Jul 23, 2020 | Basics of Intellectual Property, Intellectual Property

I meet many business owners and individuals who have written books or manuals, taken professional photographs, created artwork, or written music, and they never register the copyrights for the original works with the U.S. Copyright Office.

Some people just do not think about the issue of registering the copyrights for their original works. Others think it is too expensive to register their copyrights.

So here are some facts to consider.

Copyright registration is voluntary. You still own the copyright to original works without registration with the U.S. Copyright Office. But don’t let this fact give you a false sense of security.

  • If someone decides to use your photographs for their website or book without your permission, you can send them a cease and desist letter telling them to remove the photos or pay you a licensing fee. If they don’t remove the photograph or pay you a licensing fee, there is not much you can do unless you have a copyright registration.

  • If you want to file a civil action for copyright infringement, you cannot do so until you register your copyright for your original works with the U.S. Copyright Office. The U.S. Supreme Court issued an opinion on March 4, 2019 that requires the owner of a copyright to register it with the US Copyright Office before they file a lawsuit for copyright infringement against an infringer. See Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corp. v. Wall-Street.com, LLC, 586 U.S. ___ 139 S. Ct. 881 (2019).

  • If you file a copyright application with the U.S. Copyright Office, it can take eight (8) months or longer to obtain your registration if you meet the criteria for registration. That means you may have to wait eight months or more after filing the application – or pay additional fees to expedite the process – before you can file a copyright infringement lawsuit. The delay could cause significant problems.

  • If you possess a copyright registration from the U.S. Copyright Office, you can seek statutory damages (not just actual damages) and request attorney fees in an infringement lawsuit if the work was registered before the infringement began or within three months after the first publication of that work. Since statutory damages are easier to prove than actual damages in most cases, you want to have the ability to seek statutory damages in your case.

  • If you register your copyrights within five years of publication, the registration is considered prima facie evidence in a court of law.

So if you are publishing photographs, articles, manuscripts, music, or artwork in public places, such as the internet, museums, or businesses, take the time and spend the money to register your copyrights for your original works. 

The filing fee for a standard US Copyright Application is $65. There are more complicated applications that are specific to newspapers, collections, etc. that cost a bit more, but the cost is still relatively cheap. 

Take the Time to Protect Your Original Works

Most people spend a considerable amount of time creating their original works, so why not spend the time and money to obtain a copyright registration? 

If you need assistance with registering your copyrights, please give the Intellectual Property attorneys at Marks Gray, P.A. a call. We will be glad to assist you.


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