Yes, authors of original works are automatically entitled to some copyright protection the moment that their work is fixed in a tangible medium. However, it’s better to think that you are not protected unless and until you have registered your work with the copyright office. Copyright your work today with a copyright legal expert for only $155 + copyright office fees. Here’s why you should not hesitate:
1. You Cannot Pursue Litigation For Infringement Until Your Work Is Registered.
Let’s say that you write and perform a song and post it to your Sound Cloud. It gets a couple thousand views and you get good feedback. One day, you are driving home from work and you hear your song on the radio, but it’s being sung by someone else! What can you do? Unfortunately, you legally cannot do anything until you register your work with the copyright office, which can take 4-6 months unless you are willing and able to pay an $850 fee to expedite your application. If you had registered your work when you published your song then you could pursue action right away, AND more importantly, you will be entitled to much more in damages as well as attorneys fees.
2. The Amount Of Damages Recoverable For Registered Works Is Significantly Higher.
Going back to the previous example, let’s say you wait the 4-6 months to register your work or pay the $850 fee, what are you entitled to? There are two types of copyright damages for authors of infringed works to pursue; actual damages and statutory damages. If your work is not registered before the infringement takes place, then you are unfortunately only entitled to actual damages and/or attribution of profits. In our stolen song example, this means that if the original artist can prove ownership, “access,” and infringement, which is much more difficult when the work is not registered, then they are only entitled to that which they would have received had the infringing artist properly compensated the original artist. If the song is a hit, this might still be a decent size number worth suing over if you have $20,000+ to dish out in attorney fees. But, as is often the case with infringement of unregistered works, the possible damages in contrast to the cost of obtaining them, often make litigation not worth the trouble. Furthermore, coming up with a non-speculative actual damage number can often prove difficult or impossible.
So, what if your work was registered before the infringement occurs? If your work was already registered, not only will you be able to more easily prove ownership, access, and infringement, but you will be entitled to those beautiful statutory damages in addition to compensation for all attorney fees. What are statutory damages you ask? A minimum of $750 and a maximum of $30,000 per infringement, or as much as $150,000 per infringement if the infringer acted willfully. In our song example, per infringement would mean each and every time the song was played which means hundreds of thousands in damages if not millions!
3. An official registration makes it simple for someone to contact you about your work.
Going again back to our song example, let’s say that a filmmaker hears your song and wants to license it for their upcoming project. If they need to contact you, the can easily do so by searching your name or the name of your work online via the copyright office!
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