REGISTERING YOUR COPYRIGHT WITH THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
Automatic Protection under Copyright Law
Under U.S. Copyright law, as soon as you make a tangible copy of something, you have a copyright. Tangible is something you can touch. So pen to paper, song to recorder. Once the tangible copy exists, you have full copyright protection.
For a description of the automatic rights you get with your copyright, see this article.
Now, let’s get into the nitty gritty. Given that you obtain copyright protection as soon as your work is in a tangible form, why file with the Copyright Office in Washington? The reason is because not only do you strengthen your protection by registering the copyright with the United States Copyright Office, but it is a prerequisite to enforce your rights in a Court of law. The practical difference is that your registration may take up to 9 months, so it is important to get the process started as soon as possible.
Why Formal Registration Matters:
Again, there is no requirement to register your copyright, but there are benefits:
1. You have the right to sue in a court of law
2. You now have a public record of your copyright claims
3. If you registered within 5 years of publication, you now have assumed evidence that your copyright claim is valid (they call it “prima facie” evidence)
4. Statutory damages and your attorney’s fees are available, so long as your registration was made within 3 month after publication of your work
As of the writing of this article, the copyright registration cost is $55 for electronically filed registration. There is also an expedite option, where you can get your registration back in approximately one week, for a small price of $760.
Put the World on Notice
As a general tip, because copyright protection is automatic, be sure to include a copyright notice on your creative works. This is by no means a mandatory step, but it is going to be much more difficult for Joe Shmo to argue that he did not know your work was copyright protected if there is a copyright notice on your latest album (for example). A proper copyright notice would be: © 2018 Delgado Entertainment Law, PLLC. The year is the year of first publication, and the name is the name of the copyright owner.
Where (and how) to Register
1. Before you begin, take a look at the information you will be required to provide on the application: https://www.copyright.gov/eco/help-registration-steps.html
2. When you are ready to rock n’ roll, go to: https://www.copyright.gov/registration/
3. Click “Log in to the Electronic Copyright Office (eCO) Registration System”
4. Create (or enter) your User Login information
5. You will select the type of work being registered (i.e., musical work, film, script)
6. You will provide all relevant information in your application, including who owns the copyright (i.e., did you work with other creators?), who the claimant is (this is typically the name person as the copyright owner), and information about when the creative work was published
Getting Help from An Attorney
Whenever possible, our office encourages clients to complete their copyright registrations on their own (its much cheaper that way, and you are likely going to need to file for copyright protection more than once). However, for creators unfamiliar and somewhat intimidated by this process, sometimes it is easier for our clients to hand-off the registration process to one of our experienced attorney’s (which we complete for a flat fee).
If in need of assistance, or have questions otherwise about completing the copyright registration process, our office can be reached at email@example.com.