About Copyright

Protection of Your Intellectual Property

All forms of intellectual property, including photographs in digital and analog form, are eligible for protection under the copyright laws of the United States. These laws protect the creators of intellectual property against unauthorized use of their works.

What's Required to Get a Copyright? The way in which copyright protection is secured is frequently misunderstood. No publication or registration or other action in the Copyright Office is required to secure copyright. (See following note.) There are, however, certain definite advantages to registration. See “Copyright Registration.”

Copyright Registration:

In general, copyright registration is a legal formality intended to make a public record of the basic facts of a particular copyright. However, registration is not a condition of copyright protection.

Even though registration is not a requirement for protection, the copyright law provides several inducements or advantages to encourage copyright owners to make registration. Among these advantages are the following:

  • Registration establishes a public record of the copyright claim.
  • Before an infringement suit may be filed in court, registration is necessary for works of U.S. origin.
  • If made before or within 5 years of publication, registration will establish prima facie evidence in court of the validity of the copyright and of the facts stated in the certificate.
  • If registration is made within 3 months after publication of the work or prior to an infringement of the work, statutory damages and attorney's fees will be available to the copyright owner in court actions. Otherwise, only an award of actual damages and profits is available to the copyright owner.
  • Registration allows the owner of the copyright to record the registration with the U. S. Customs Service for protection against the importation of infringing copies.
  • Registration may be made at any time within the life of the copyright. Unlike the law before 1978, when a work has been registered in unpublished form, it is not necessary to make another registration when the work becomes published, although the copyright owner may register the published edition, if desired.

The more important reason to register your work with the Copyright Office is that the registration provides proof and notice of you having created the work, what the work consisted of and when it was created. Being the first to create the work is often the hardest thing to prove in a copyright infringement case.

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