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When Should You Register Your Copyrights – Entertainment Law Asked & Answered




When should you register your copyrights?

Hi, I'm Gordon Firemark, and this is Asked and Answered, where I help you take your career and business in entertainment to the next level.

One of the most common questions I get from clients I the business is about when they should register their copyrights.

So, here goes…

First off, registration is not necessary to perfect the copyrights in a work, but the benefits of registration, especially early registration are so significant, copyright owners should make a practice of registering their copyrights well in advance of any trouble arising. I recommend doing this as early and often as possible.

To register a copyright, the copyright owner submits an application to the Copyright Office with information about the work, the author, and the circumstances of its creation. Online applications can be filed for about $35. Filing a paper application currently costs a bit more.

There are a bunch of advantages to filing your registration early, but probably the most important are the ability to obtain statutory damages and attorney’s fees.

Statutory damages do not depend on the actual harm to the copyright holder or the ill-gotten gains of the infringer, and awards can range between $750 and $30,000 for each infringed work. In the case of willful infringement, awards can go as high as $150,000.

But, to be eligible to receive these statutory damages and attorney’s fees, a copyright owner has register the work, (a) prior to publication, (b) before the infringement occurs, or (c) within three months following the first publication of the work.

Otherwise, only actual damages or infringer’s profits may be recovered, and for most copyright cases, those can be difficult and costly to prove, and they usually don't add up to as much.

Also, in many jurisdictions no copyright infringement suit can be brought until a certificate of copyright registration has been issued, so you can sometimes experience a big delay.

What are some of the other benefits of early registration?

Well… When you have a registration, you get a legal presumption of the validity of the copyright and of the facts stated in the copyright certificate and records.

You establish a public record of copyright ownership, which makes proving infringement easier.

You can record the registration with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to prevent the importation of infringing copies.

And, if you're looking for funding, a registered copyright will help build the confidence of lenders and investors.

For many works, like brochures and pamphlets, the process is pretty straightforward and you might not need help from your lawyer, but for more complex situations having legal help will streamline the process and improve the odds that everything goes through without a hitch.

Copyright lawsuits are colossally expensive, and the costs can easily add up to more than the actual damages sustained, especially in isolated instances of infringement. What that means is that a copyright holder could, as a practical matter, have no real remedy for that infringement unless they've registered early and are thus able to get an award of statutory damages and attorney’s fees.

If you don't register your work in a timely manner, you will probably have some limits on what you can do if your work is infringed. So, if your business has any copyright material, it makes sense to have a system in place to get things registered so you have the full protection of the law.

That's it for this episode of Asked and Answered. If you have a question you'd like to see featured here, submit it at

This is intended as general information only and does not establish an attorney-client relationship. It is not a substitute for a private, independent consultation with an attorney selected to advise you after a full investigation of the facts and law relevant to your matter. We will not be responsible for viewers'’ detrimental reliance upon the information appearing in this feature.

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