What Rights and Interests Does a Copyright Protect?

Copyright law grants and protects only certain rights of the original author, listed below:

  • Right to reproduce the work
  • Right to prepare derivative works
  • Right to distribute copies of the work to public (sell, rent)
  • Right to perform the work publicly
  • Right to display the right publicly
  • For sound recordings: right to perform the work by means of a digital audio transmission

Federal Registration of copyright confers several significant advantages to copyright owners:

  • Creates public record of owner’s copyrights.
  • Without proper registration, it can be challenging for the owner to prove anywhere that the initial creation of the work belongs to him/her.
  • Registration is required to bring a lawsuit in U.S. Federal court.
  • If registration is made within five years of public display of the work, it establishes prima facie evidence of copyright validity and facts stated in the registration certificate.
  • In case of infringement, the claimant must have a duly registered work to qualify for statutory damages and attorney’s fees. While in the case of violation of somebody’s copyrights the actual damages may not be significant (if the claimant did not lose big profits from his/her work being unlawfully used by others), the statutory damages are significant and the threat of them can stop many parties from unfair business practices. For example, provided that the claimant did not sustain a great loss, the statutory damages awarded under normal circumstances may be up to $30,000 and $30,000-150,000 for willful infringement.
  • Registration allows the copyright owner to have U.S. customs prohibit importation of infringing copies of the work.

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