Must I register a copyright with the government to receive protection?
A copyright registration is not required to own a copyright on the creator’s work – instead, an automatic copyright exists upon creation of the work. Nonetheless, there are substantial benefits to filing for a copyright registration with the U.S. Copyright Office upon initial publication of the work.
Section 412 of the Copyright Act (17 U.S.C. § 412) provides that an award of statutory damages or attorney’s fees is not available to a copyright owner for (1) any copyright infringement in an unpublished work commenced before the effective date of its registration; or (2) any copyright infringement commenced after first publication of the work and before the effective date of its registration, unless the registration is made within 3 months after the first publication of the work.
As a copyright owner, the claims for statutory damages and attorney’s fees are important remedies because a copyright owner’s claim for actual damages or for the defendant’s profits may be insubstantial. Therefore, early registration, while not mandatory, is still important to preserve significant remedies against potential infringers.
Please Note: Rabin Kammerer Johnson provides these FAQ’s for informational purposes only, and you should not interpret this information as legal advice. If you want advice as to how the law might apply to the specific facts and circumstances of your case, please contact one of our attorneys.