What are the benefits of registering my work? I thought I owned my work as soon as I create it, so why do I need to pay money to register it?
You are correct that § 102(a) of the law states that copyright subsists in original works from the moment they are fixed in a tangible medium of expression. However, the most significant benefits afforded under the Copyright Act attach only when a work has been registered with the Copyright Office. The most important benefit is the ability to enforce your copyright in a federal court.
Under § 411(a) of the law, a certificate of copyright registration, or a formal written refusal from the Office is required before a copyright owner may institute an infringement suit.
Some of the other significant benefits of copyright registration include the following:
Registration is required to seek statutory damages or attorney’s fees in a copyright infringement lawsuit.
A registration constitutes prima facie evidence of the validity of the copyright and the facts stated in the certificate of registration if the work is registered before or within five years after the work is first published.
A certificate of registration creates a public record of authorship and copyright ownership.
A registration provides information to prospective licensees, such as the name and address for obtaining permission to use the work.
For a full list of the benefits associated with copyright registration, see U.S. Copyright Office, Compendium of U.S. Copyright Office Practices § 202 (3d ed. 2014) (“Compendium (Third)”).
Rob Kasunic, Director of Registration Policy and Practices at the U.S. Copyright Office