While it’s true that anything copyrightable is automatically copyrighted by its creator (it’s true; check out our previous post, “Copyright Basics”) and that an official US Copyright Office registration is not legally required, it’s important that you understand how your decision to copyright or not can affect your future. You may find that there’s more in favor of registering your copyright than you initially thought.
1. With an official copyright registration, you can bring someone to court for infringing on your rights.Here’s the thing: legally owning the rights to a piece of intellectual property is one thing; defending those rights is quite another.
Say you write a fantastic song. You record it and play it for a musician you know. Soon, you’re hearing it on the radio! He didn’t ask for permission, and you feel that you’re entitled to some sort of compensation. But how do you prove that you own the song?
You don’t—and the courts aren’t even going to hear your case without proof. The copyright office specifically mentions this:
And, my friend, without an official copyright registration, it’s going to be difficult indeed to convince anyone that you’re responsible for that new hit song.
2. An official registration makes it simple for someone to contact you about your work.
Going back to the song you wrote: say you officially registered your work before anyone else, and it starts getting radio play. A filmmaker hears it and wants to license the song to play over the credits of his new movie—but how will he know who you are? And how will he contact you?
You may have a website, or even a Facebook page—but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make it as easy as possible for someone to contact you with a copyright licensing opportunity.
So what does this mean? If that filmmaker decides to contact you, he knows he can go to the US Copyright Office’s website and see this:
Now the filmmaker can find your copyright record—either by your name or the song title, most likely—and if you’ve left public contact information, they can get ahold of you or your designated agent and send you a copyright license agreement. What could be easier?
3. It’s very, very expensive to rush a copyright filing.
While far easier to register your work right away, before you or anyone else publishes it, and be on record as the first person to claim legal ownership (rather than waiting until someone else makes this claim—gulp!), you can always legally do so after the fact.
But, consider this: if you didn’t register your work initially, it’s likely that there’s a new immediate reason you’re filing now—probably that someone is infringing on your copyright—and it’s likely you’re going to want to rush your filing.
But how much does it cost to rush your filing? A look at the US Copyright Office’s fee schedule shows us the following:
The practical question is no longer “Can I rush a filing?”—now the question is: “Can I afford to rush a filing?”
Personally, I’d rather spend the $35 now and avoid this whole mess. What about you?
Click&Copyright can register your copyright today!