US law considers your work protected from the moment of creation, even if you do not register it at the United States Copyright Office (“USCO”). However, registration adds a powerful layer of protection for your work, especially if you find yourself in a legal dispute.
The most valuable benefit of registering copyrights is the ability to file a lawsuit for copyright infringement. In most jurisdictions, a copyright owner cannot file a lawsuit to enforce/protect its copyrights until the U.S. Copyright Office has issued a registration.
A registration before, or within five years of, publication of the work establishes prima facie evidence of the validity of the copyrights and the facts stated in the registration certificate which facts include the identity of the copyright owner. A necessary element in ant successful copyright litigation.
As to damages, if you register your work either prior to it being infringed or up to three months after publication, in the event of a successful claim, you will be eligible to receive statutory damages and, at the court’s discretion, reimbursement of legal fees.
The owner of registered copyrights is also eligible to participate in a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) program. The CBP will seize and detain imported goods that violate intellectual property rights in the United States. Registration is required to participate in this program.
Lastly, USCO records can be used to publicly identify the creators and copyright owners of registered work, so you can also include contact details in case someone would like to license your images.
Yes, owners must register their copyright before filing a lawsuit for copyright infringement. The Supreme Court held on March 4, 2019, in the case of Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corp. v. Wall-Street.com, LLC that an owner must have already obtained a registration from the U.S. Copyright Office prior to bringing a copyright infringement lawsuit. It is no longer sufficient to simply file a copyright application prior to filing a copyright infringement lawsuit.
A creator of an original work owns a copyright in his work just by creating it. However, the creator cannot enforce that copyright without first obtaining a copyright regurgitation.
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