June 19, 2014
Many creators of copyright works of authorship fail to register their copyrights with the U.S. Copyright Office, despite the low cost of registration and the substantial benefits accorded to registrants.
Timely U.S. copyright registration is a prerequisite to filing a lawsuit to protect a United States work in the United States. A “United States work”, in general, is a work is a first published in the United States. In the case of an unpublished work, the work is a “United States work” if all the authors of the work are nationals, domiciliaries, or habitual residents of the United States.
The primary benefit of timely registration is the availability of statutory damages of up to $30,000 for the infringement. In many cases, proving actual damages is difficult, making statutory damages the only meaningful remedy available to a copyright owner if a work is infringed.
Registration is not a prerequisite for filing suit for any “non-United States work” or for unpublished United States works. However, the advantages of registration are incentive for owners of copyrights in both published and unpublished works of all origins to register their works.
Copyright registration is an inexpensive and relatively simple procedure
Copyright registration is inexpensive: the online registration fee is only $35 for a single author who is also the sole claimant in one work that is not made for hire, and is only $55 for all other online filings. The registration procedures are relatively simple and generally do not require assistance of counsel. The U.S. Copyright Office has extensive, useful guidance on all key aspects of copyright protection and the registration procedure. The registration portal, eCO (Electronic Copyright Office) contains additional instructions and links to the forms.