Legal Lingo Part III: Copyright Registration is Like Eating Your Southern Cooked Veggies!
Do I have to Register my Creative Works?
This is a question I get a lot. Do I HAVE to register my creative works with the Copyright Office? Let me answer with a few questions that may help make my point. Do you have to eat vegetables? Do you have to exercise? Do you have to get more than 5 hours of sleep each night? The answer is No, you don’t HAVE to do any of those things. There is no one standing over you forcing you to take care of yourself. Many people move through life without doing any of these thing mentioned and may live without any issues. However, eventually it does catch up. So it is the case with registering your creative works. You don’t HAVE to register them, and you may move along over several months or even several years without any incident. However, there may come a time when you wished you would have taken care of your creative works a little more carefully—just like eating those veggies.
How Does Registration Help Me?
I am also often asked, “Well, if registration is not mandatory, then do I still have copyright protection?” That, my friend, is a loaded question. Copyright protection extends to you the minute you create and fix it in a tangible form. So for example, when the painter paints, when the writer writes, when the photographer photographs, when the blogger blogs, and when the designer designs. All of their work is protected. It’s actually pretty straight forward. At least that part is. So, then, why register? By registering your works, there are several benefits to be gained. First, you are putting the public at large on notice that you own the exclusive rights to that specific work. You will also receive a certificate of registration stating that you own the rights to that work. Second, to be able to bring a lawsuit for infringement in federal court, you must register. Thirdly, registering allows you to potentially collect statutory damages (interpret potentially more money) and attorney’s fees if you are successful in an infringement lawsuit. Finally, if you register within five years of publishing the creative work, then this is prima facie evidence in a court of law. What does that mean? It means the burden then shifts to the other party to prove that you do not have the exclusive rights afforded to you by the federal copyright law.
So, as I mentioned before, you are not required to register any work, but my question is–why wouldn’t you? You only have more to lose by not registering and only more to gain by registering. The benefits far outweigh the burden of registering. It is simply part of owning a creative business.
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