Copyright Registration: Should You Do It?

Attorney Omid Zareh discusses copyright basics at the East Meadow Public Library on Long Island.

Attorney Omid Zareh discusses copyright basics at the East Meadow Public Library on Long Island.

I think most authors know that copyright registration is not a requirement for protection under the copyright law, since copyright is secured automatically when a work is created. So why bother registering a copyright?

That’s what I’ve always wondered, so I decided to attend a seminar last night at the East Meadow Public Library, Long Island, N.Y., titled, “Long Island Writers and Authors: Copyrighting Your Work.”  The presenter was Omid Zareh, a co-founding partner of Weinberg Zareh & Geyerhahn, LLP, based in Merrick, N.Y. Zareh advises in various areas of the law, including technology, intellectual property, real property and corporate disputes.

According to Zareh, although registering a copyright is considered a legal formality, doing so does give authors some additional protections under the law. In particular, if copyright registration is made within three months after publication of a work or prior to an infringement of the work, statutory damages and attorney’s fees will be available to the copyright owner in court actions. (Otherwise, only an award of actual damages and profits is available to the copyright owner.) It also establishes a public record of the copyright claim and is necessary should an infringement suit ever be filed in court. Additionally, it allows you to record the registration with the U.S. Customs Service to protect against the importation of infringing copies.

And if that wasn’t compelling enough, registering a work is super-easy and -inexpensive. Simply visit the U.S. Copyright Office’s website, and file a copyright registration for your work using the Office’s online system. To file online, it only costs $35 (to file a paper claim, it’s $65).

Ease of filing. Cost-effectiveness. Added legal protections. Really, there doesn’t seem to be a reason NOT to register a copyright for a work. I think I’m sold.

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7 thoughts on “Copyright Registration: Should You Do It?

  1. Some great information! There was one additional part about filing the forms that isn’t well known. As of a few years ago the digital registration didn’t cover the print books but the paper filing covered both. That may have changed since 2010/2011 but I don’t know for sure.

  2. A tip for people who write short stories and don’t want to pay $35 a pop… assemble them into a collection (“Joe Smith’s 2012-2013 story collection” for example) and copyright it as one work. Even if you break them out separately for submission, the word sequence is protected.

  3. That is very good advice. Did he happen to mention that titles and the work itself have to be copyrighted separately? Somebody threatened to sue me because of the title of my book resembled the title of a song (it was meant to.) The song title was never copyrighted, only the actual song lyrics. There was nothing they could do.

    • That’s interesting, Doreen! He did talk about derivative works (sequels, etc.) being protected by the same copyright, but I don’t believe you can copyright only a title. (In some cases, this would be a trademark.) I’m just glad that the lawsuit, in your case, never came to be. :) Nice to see you here, lady!

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