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  • Writer's pictureDavid Baker

PRACTICAL IP - Is federal copyright registration worth the time and effort?

U.S. copyright registration can be obtained through the U.S. Copyright Office



Copyright registration is an essential step for creators and artists to protect their original works in the United States. Registering a copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office provides numerous advantages, including legal protection, evidence of ownership, and the ability to pursue legal remedies in case of infringement. In fact, the only way to enforce a copyright in the United States, if litigation is required, is to first obtain a federal copyright registration. Without it, no court will hear your case.


The following explores the advantages of copyright registration and outlines the process for obtaining copyright registration through the U.S. Copyright Office.


There are numerous advantages to obtaining a copyright registration, including the following,


Legal Protection


Copyright registration grants the copyright owner exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute, display, perform, and modify their original work. With registration, the copyright holder can take legal action against anyone who infringes upon these rights.


Public Notice.


By registering a copyright, creators provide public notice of their claim to the work. This notice helps deter potential infringers who may be unaware of the copyright owner's rights.



Statutory Damages and Attorney's Fees


Copyright registration is a prerequisite for filing a copyright infringement lawsuit. Registering within the required timeframe enables the copyright holder to seek statutory damages and attorney's fees in court, which can serve as a powerful deterrent and provide additional financial remedies.



Access to Federal Courts


Copyright registration allows copyright owners to file infringement lawsuits in federal courts. This provides a broader jurisdictional scope and often results in more favorable outcomes.


Recordation with U.S. Customs and Border Protection


Copyright registration allows the copyright owner to record their registration with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). This enables CBP to prevent the importation of infringing copies into the United States.



The Process of Obtaining Copyright Registration


Obtaining a federal copyright registration in the U.S. is not particularly complicated or time-consuming. However, it can be trick. And missteps that occur in completing an application and in submitting the proper supporting materials can not only delay the application process but can also significantly increase costs and may invalidate a prospective registration. For these reasons alone, it’s probably a good idea to retain someone familiar with the process to handle the application and registration.


Of course, the first step is understanding the registration process.


Step 1. Determine Copyright Eligibility.

The first step is to determine if your work is eligible for copyright protection. Copyright covers various forms of creative expression, including literature, music, art, software, and architectural designs.


Step 2. Creation and Fixation.

Copyright protection arises automatically upon the creation of an original work and its fixation in a tangible medium. While registration is not mandatory for copyright protection, it is highly recommended for the aforementioned advantages.


Step 3. Application Preparation.

To register a copyright, complete the appropriate application form provided by the U.S. Copyright Office. The two primary application options are the online electronic application (eCO) and the paper application (Form CO).


Step 4. Gathering Required Materials.

Depending on the type of work being registered, additional materials may be required. For literary works, the manuscript or a portion of it may need to be submitted. For musical compositions, sheet music or a sound recording may be necessary. Check the Copyright Office's guidelines for specific requirements.


Step 5. Application Submission.

Submit the completed application, along with the requisite filing fee, to the U.S. Copyright Office. The fee varies depending on the application type. Electronic filing generally incurs a lower fee compared to paper filing.


Step 6. Processing Time.

The Copyright Office typically takes several months to process applications. During this time, the application will undergo a review process, which may include correspondence with the Office for clarifications or additional information.


Step 7. Copyright Certificate.

Upon approval, the Copyright Office will issue a copyright certificate as evidence of registration. The certificate includes important details such as the registration number, effective date, and the names of the copyright owner(s).



Obtaining copyright registration through the U.S. Copyright Office provides creators and artists with numerous advantages, including legal protection, evidence of ownership, and the ability to seek statutory damages and attorney's fees. The process involves determining eligibility, preparing the application, gathering required materials, submitting the application, and waiting for processing. Copyright registration is an essential


And if overseas sales are important to you, then you should seriously consider obtaining copyright registrations in the countries where you expect the most robust sales.



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