How to Register a Copyright

How to Register a Copyright

How to Register a Copyright

Registering a copyright is a relatively inexpensive and straightforward task, and it can usually be accomplished without legal assistance. In fact, the U.S. Copyright Office has a lot of helpful information and guides, some of which are mentioned below. This article will focus on explaining why a business should register a copyright, and will further provide information on how to do so.

Why Register a Copyright?

As explained in this article about copyright laws, establishing a copyright is very easy to do. Under federal copyright laws, an author need only come up with an original work and then “fix it in a tangible medium of expression.” Registration with the U.S. Copyright Office is not necessary to protect the copyright. However, registration will provide additional advantages to the copyright owner. Some of those advantages include the following:

– Registration is necessary for works of U.S. origin before a copyright infringement suit may be filed.

– If the registration is made before or within five years of publication, it will establish prima facie evidence of the validity of the copyright and of the facts stated in the certificate.

– If the registration is made within three months of the publication of the work, or prior to an infringement of the work, statutory damages and attorney’s fees will be available to the copyright owner. Otherwise, only an award of actual damages and profits is available to the copyright owner.

In summary, for businesses that own copyrights, the advantage in registration is that, in the case of an infringement, the business will be able to bring a suit against the infringing party and have the most amount of legal relief available to that business.

As an example, which I’ve seen in my own practice, a small business creates an original boxed product to sell on-line. (As an original product that has been fixed in a tangible medium of expression, a copyright has been established.) That product is advertised through the business’s own web site and on various third party vending platforms, such as Ebay. Scam artists then copy the exact product image and description, create a profile on a separate third party vending platform, and attempt to sell the same product for a higher price, while feigning that they are actually licensed vendors of that product.

This constitutes copyright infringement (amongst other things), and the scam artist can be pursued through threats and demand letters, but, without having properly registered the copyright, the business owner will not be able to file a copyright infringement lawsuit and it will not be able to pursue statutory damages and attorney’s fees.

So, the lesson is that, when creating original works of expression (i.e., original products) that you want to sell repeatedly in your business, you should strongly consider registering the copyrights for those works.

How to Register a Copyright

Most copyright registrations can be completed electronically through the U.S. Copyright Office’s “eCO” system. The U.S. Copyright Office has a great deal of helpful information, and that information will guide you step by step through the process. There is no need to repeat every step of the process in this article, as that only would be redundant.

However, to facilitate the process, copyright owners should first read the U.S. Copyright Office’s helpful guide on copyright basics, review the FAQs, and then review the eCO tutorials, which can be found here. Once that’s done, then the registration can be completed, which can cost as little as $35.

If you need legal assistance in protecting your copyrights, need to register a copyright or you have a business that has legal issues concerning its intellectual property — especially if your business is in or around Portland, Oregon — please contact us.

Author: Andrew Harris

Andrew Harris, an attorney in Portland, Oregon wrote this guide on how to register a copyright.

Learn More

To continue reading more about the laws that might affect your business, please see the Articles page, or to simply see a list of helpful legal resources for Oregon startups and businesses, please see the Legal Resources page.

If you need assistance with a particular legal issue affecting your business — especially if your business is in or around Portland, Oregon — please contact us and we will get back to you as quickly as possible.