Copyright arises automatically when an original work is created. Copyright protects “original works of authorship,” which include paintings, illustrations, sculpture, photographs, books, articles, dissertations, poems, movies, songs, recordings, logo designs, websites, software code and more. While the creator of the work automatically obtains copyright in the work and is immediately entitled to protection, proving ownership of that copyright is another story.
All too often it boils down to a case of ‘their word against yours’. Without proper protection, something you have created could end up making money for someone else.
So, what can you do in order to enhance your copyright ownership rights and be prepared for any case in the future?
Copyright Registration is the answer.
Here’s why it’s important to register your copyright as soon as you have completed your creation process.
Create Public Record of Ownership
Copyright registration creates a public record of your ownership. And ownership is the most common dispute when it comes to copyright. Also, the public screening of you copyright registration will discourage potential infringers and protect your work. A public record that demonstrates a claim to copyright will go a long way to demonstrate ownership in the event such ownership is challenged in the future. This public registration is a vital protection of the value of your copyrighted content.
Ability to File an Infringement Lawsuit
In many countries, you will not be able to commence a copyright infringement lawsuit without possessing a registration of your copyright. Therefore, registration provides additional credibility when/if the copyright owner is forced to serve a cease-and-desist letter on an alleged infringer. By registering the copyright of an original piece you validate it and evidence the date of creation. Different countries have different rules on registration and even where countries do not have laws on registration, registering your copyright on an independent website is recommended as it will assist in collaborating the date of creation.
Presumption of validity of your copyright
In an infringement action, put very simply a copyright owner must establish (1) ownership of a valid copyright, and (2) copying of the original elements of the copyright. If registration was obtained either before publication or within five years of publication of the work, the registration certificate will constitute prima facie evidence of the validity of the copyright and the facts stated in the certificate (e.g., the author and date of completion). This means that rather than having to prove that you are the owner of a valid copyright, the court will presume that you satisfy the first element of copyright infringement and it will fall to the defendant to show otherwise. This presumption of validity can be especially advantageous when seeking immediate injunctive relief, such as a TRO or preliminary injunction.
Timely registration can enable the creator to seek damages for post-registration infringements.
Registering your copyright immediately after completing a creation is very important. Early registration enables a copyright owner to seek damages, lawyers’ fees and costs for infringement that occurs after the effective date of registration.
If you have copyrighted works that have attracted the interests of other parties, you can explore your licensing options to make sure you can financially benefit from their use. Licensing is a legal authorisation from you to another party that permits them to use some (or all) of your copyrighted works.
As you can tell, even though it is not mandatory, copyright registration provides valuable legal protection. It makes it easier for other people to find your protected material, as well as helping you to assert your legal rights by providing date stamped evidence of the exact or approximate creation date. It can help you mitigate the risk of expensive and timely litigation, whether you are a claimant or a defendant, as you have proof of ownership. Registration is essential if you ever find yourself filing or defending an infringement lawsuit and recommended for businesses and individuals alike, who wish to protect the inherent value of their work.
About the author
Harender Branch is a partner at UK law firm, Branch Austin – firstname.lastname@example.org. This blog is for information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or creating a formal relationship. No liability on the part of Copyrightsworld or Ms Branch attaches to any reliance placed on this blog and you are encouraged to seek legal advice if you have any queries. Copyrightsworld is able to recommend specialist lawyers to you, if needed.