Registering a copyright is a very important part of copyright ownership. While a copyright author holds ownership of a copyright in a work when it is created, you must apply for a copyright registration in the work before you can bring a lawsuit for copyright infringement. A copyright registration provides the copyright owner with exclusive benefits. First, a registration provides a public record of a copyright claim. In addition to a copyright notice (not required but recommended), registration can potentially defeat a defense by a party who infringed the copyright that their actions were “innocent,”which would reduce the damages the copyright owner obtain. Second, when a copyright owner obtains a registration within five years from the date the of publication, the facts in the copyright registration are deemed “prima facie” evidence of those facts. Finally, when the copyright registration occurs within three months after the first publication of the copyrighted work or before an infringement of the copyrighted work, statutory damages and attorney’s fees are available to owner of the copyright in court. The Copyright Act provides that certain remedies are unavailable where a federal registration was not secured, including statutory damages and attorney’s fees.
This is extremely important because statutory damages can range anywhere from $750.00 all the way up to $150,000.00 per act of infringement. Without statutory damages, a copyright owner must provide evidence of actual damages. This is difficult, especially if the copyright owner cannot provide evidence of prior earnings and loss of earnings or other evidence of damages. Statutory damages prevents the requirement to prove actual damages. If a copyright owner has a copyright registration which has been infringed, the infringer not only might lose the case but could be liable for statutory damages and the claimant’s attorneys’ fees, this is a great bargaining power for settling the case and not requiring the copyright owner to go to trial.
As a result, to get the most possible protection in a case of infringement, it is important to obtain a federal registration of your copyright as soon as possible after your work is created.