Reasons to Register Your Copyright

Reasons to Register Your Copyright

A copyright automatically exits from the moment of creation of a work (fixing it in a tangible medium). However, registration of the work with the United States Copyright Office is important. The cost of registration is low and the procedure is simple.

Ability to Sue

Before an infringement suit may be filed in court, registration is necessary for works of U.S. origin. The 1976 Act requires a valid copyright registration in order to bring a suit for copyright infringement in federal court. 

Public Notice of Copyright

Registration establishes a public record of a copyright claim, and allows the author to constructively notify their copyright claim on the work itself through the copyright symbol, word, or abbreviation. Proper notice can defeat an “innocent infringer” defense, which could mitigate actual or statutory damages available.

Damages and Attorney's Fees

If your work is registered before someone infringes it (or within three months of publication), in a court action both statutory damages and attorney’s fees will be available to the copyright owner. If you do not register, only an award of actual damages and profits is available. Statutory damages are set by law and can be high, while actual damages can be very difficult to prove. If one has not registered, it might not be worth suing someone for infringement.


Your registration certificate is prima facie evidence of the validity of your copyright and of the facts stated in the certificate. This means that the burden is on the person infringing to prove that he or she has some right to the work.

The registration also provides a permanent record of your claim to the work. If your certificate is ever lost or destroyed you can get a duplicate.

Your copyright certificate is tangible evidence of your rights in a work. If you plan to sell a collection of your work at a future date, you can provide copyright certificates that provide physical evidence that the purchaser is getting ownership of a registered copyright. Also, in the event of your death, it will be an estate asset, which can be passed on to your heirs or beneficiaries.

Royalty Payments

For recorded musical works, registration allows you to collect compulsory royalty payments from persons who may make use of your works. Your work may also be discovered by someone searching the copyright database, which may result in a business opportunity.

  • Definition of a Copyright
    A copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States to authors of "original works of authorship." This includes literary, dramatic, musical, artistic and certain other creative works. Material not protected by copyright (or otherwise protected) is available for use by...
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  • Works Protected by Copyrights
    A copyright gives certain exclusive rights to persons who create original works of authorship, including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic and certain other intellectual works. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works. Copyrightable works include the following...
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  • Advantages of Registering Your Copyright
    The advantages of registering a copyright include the following:
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  • Copyright Holders
    In general, only the creator (the "author") of an original work (or someone to whom the copyright has been lawfully transferred) can register a copyright. However, if the author prepared the work within the scope of his or her employment or if the work falls into certain special categories and was...
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  • Scope of Copyright Protection
    Copyright protection generally gives the copyright's owner the exclusive right to do the following:
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  • Obtaining Copyright Protection
    The securing of copyright protection is frequently misunderstood. Copyright is secured automatically when a work is created. A work is "created" when it is fixed into a book, tape or electronic medium for the first time. For example, a song can be fixed in sheet music, a digital tape or both. No...
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