How to Protect the Copyright Before and After the Registration

Copyright is a protection given to owners of intellectual property. A copyright can be attached to literary, musical, dramatic, artistic work, and certain software. Copyrightable work must be original, independently created, and possess at least a minimal degree of creativity. A copyright will already exist for a copyrightable work, even before it is registered for a copyright as copyright is given immediately to the creator of the work as soon as it is made. Just the creation of the work reserves the right for its creator to prevent others from reproducing, sharing, or selling the work or, in general, using the work without its owner’s permission. Whether the work be created in a notebook, a laptop, or posted on social media, that work belongs solely to its creator. Registering your work for copyright is optional, not mandatory. Even without registration, there are common law copyright protections that apply to your work. Common law copyright gives two exclusive rights to the owner or creator of the work - It gives them the right to decide when, where, and how their work will be initially published or released and it grants property rights backed by legal policies.

The efficient way to protect a work before it can be registered is to limit its release to a tangible source and to keep a record of its creation. That way, should there be a dispute as to the creator of the work, the true creator will have valid proof. An example is a writer posting a link to his book on social media or his blog, establishing a date of release and allowing his claim to supersede any future claims. Another common and advisable method is the use and placement of a copyright symbol, followed by the year of creation and the author’s name (i.e. © 2017, Ekaterina Mouratova, Esq. All right reserved.) This will put others on notice that copyright is claimed and the infringement of such can result in consequences.

Even though there is no legal requirement to register your work, registration will allow you significant benefits and provide protections from infringement. When trying to sue someone for infringement, it may be harder to prove ownership without proper registration. The whole purpose of registering your work for copyright is to gain full protection from other parties seeking to steal your work or to pass it as their own. The registration process is simple and has three main parts: an application, a filing fee, and a non-returnable deposit. A sample of the work should also be submitted whether it be a copy or the original. The owner will then receive a certificate of registration. Registration creates a public record of the copyright ownership and clear proof of said ownership. It will help stop others from recreating or using the work without permission. The validity of copyright ownership created by its registration will hold up in federal court when involved in infringement lawsuits. Without registration, common law copyright may be difficult to prove in court and even proving it successfully will only grant limited damages.

The copyright registration can also be documented with U.S. Customs, protecting export of the copyrighted work for the use in other countries. For the full list of benefits that registration gives to the copyright owners, see our article “What Rights and Interests Copyright Protects”. 

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