Timely Copyright Registration is Essential
Timely copyright registration is essential. All of us, whether authors, bloggers, or companies with a web presence, can let an important step in publishing fall through the cracks. No one may be aware of a problem until they are slammed into the brick wall of infringement-without-an-expedient–means-to-address-it. Often companies and bloggers with a web presence hit such a wall. We find ourselves between the proverbial rock and a hard place, whether out of ignorance of the consequences or lack of a project management process that assigns responsibility in this area.
“They take care of everything.”
We as authors often assume our publishers or print-on-demand (POD) publishing solution services will either take care of every step of the publishing process related to our financial interests or at least they will inform us about steps we personally must take to ensure protection of these interests.
“It is the author’s responsibility to read the contract.”
Publishers and POD providers sometimes fail to point out to new authors the importance of timely federal copyright registration. Some do follow through with federal copyright registration as part of their service. Others do not include this service as part of their basic publishing package but do offer it as an add-on. At times we authors do not read our solution providers’ information and contracts carefully enough or do not heed what may be too-subtle warnings therein about the consequences of failure to federally register copyright in a timely manner.
Get it straight from the beginning.
We as companies with a web presence, as bloggers, as authors, and author support- providers should be aware of the importance of timing in determining when copyright registration should occur and of the importance of establishing from the outset of the writing project who is to take on the responsibility of this task.
Why do we need to register in the first place?
We may be aware that in the United States a work is copyrighted from the moment it is created in a tangible form. So we may think if someone publishes our work without our permission, they are guilty of copyright infringement and can be dealt with. Yes, they are guilty of copyright infringement. However, as a practical matter, our discovery of an infringement does not put us in the catbird seat if we have failed to register our work previous to our discovery. The infringement cannot be dealt with until application is made for federal copyright registration. Why? Because in the U. S. we cannot sue for infringement except in a federal court, and we cannot sue in a federal court until we have at least applied for federal copyright registration.
Why is timely copyright registration such an important factor?
If we register our work within 3 months of first publication, in the event we win a copyright infringement suit against someone taking our work without permission we will be awarded what is called “statutory damages.” We will also be awarded attorneys fees. If we have not registered within the stipulated timeframes, we will be awarded only actual damages (most likely a much smaller amount than statutory damages). Also, we will be responsible for payment of attorneys fees.
Copyright law defines publication as “the distribution of copies or phonorecords of a work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending.” To protect a work, whether it is a web page, a print novel, or a marketing video, for example, timely registration is imperative.
How expensive and how difficult is the process?
We can register our work (web content or print works) at the website of the U.S. Copyright Office. The cost is $35. We will be asked to fill out forms online.
Do I have to register each format I choose for my book?
No, copyright registration of the content protects our work whatever format we choose now or in the future.
Want More About Copyright Law?
Order your copy of Copyright Clearance for Creatives for a basic overview of copyright law and essential guidelines on when, how, and where to get permission to use copyright content in your works.