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Why Register When Protection Is Automatic

Full Question: Why should I register my work if copyright protection is automatic?

Answer: Since copyright protection is automatic from the moment a work is created, registration is not required in order to protect your work. However, there are numerous benefits to registration and therefore it is highly recommended, if feasible. These benefits include:

1.Bringing an Infringement Action: It enables you to file a lawsuit to enforce copyright in federal court.

  • You must file an application for registration before you can sue someone for infringing your copyright, even if the infringement has already occurred.

2. Evidence of Validity: It is evidence that your copyright is valid. This could be important if a copyright infringement case is brought involving the work.

  • Filing your registration before or within 5 years of publishing your work will help you in the event that you need to bring a copyright infringement lawsuit in court. Your registration will satisfy a basic level of proof for the court of the validity of your copyright. This does not mean that your claim of copyright ownership is guaranteed. However, instead of having to prove that you are the actual copyright owner or that your work is protected by copyright, the other party will have to prove that you are not or that your work is not. While this may not seem like much of a distinction, you are in a stronger position in court if the presumption of copyright ownership is on your side.

3. Statutory Damages and Attorneys’ Fees: It enables you to claim statutory damages and attorney’s fees.

  • To be eligible for an award of statutory damages and attorneys’ fees in a copyright infringement case, the copyrighted work must be registered before infringement commences, or, if the work is published, within 3 months of publication. The statutory damages provision may be of help because copyright owners – particularly individual creators – often find it difficult to calculate and prove exactly the extent to which an infringement has harmed them. When applicable, statutory damages for infringing uses of a work usually entitle you to a pre-determined amount of damages.

4. Creates a Public Record: It puts others on notice that your work is protected by copyright and that you are the copyright owner.

  • Registration provides notice to the world of your copyright claim. Among other things, this helps people who wish to license your work to ascertain the status of your work and to find you.

5. Satisfies Deposit Requirements: Subject to some exceptions, the Copyright Act requires that copyright owners deposit two copies their works with the Library of Congress within three months after the works have been published. This is commonly referred to as mandatory deposit. When a registration application is submitted to the Copyright Office the copies of works submitted with that application usually satisfy the Library’s independent deposit requirements. Note however that your work is still protected even if you fail to meet this requirement.

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