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Updated by Josh E. Saltz on Nov 13, 2018
Headline for 5 Reasons to Register Your Original Work With the U.S. Copyright Office
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5 Reasons to Register Your Original Work With the U.S. Copyright Office

Copyright law, a form of intellectual property law, protects original works of authorship. This could include literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works. Examples are movies, songs, poems and architecture. You should note that you don't need to formally register your work with the U.S. Copyright Office in order to be protected. Your work is considered protected the moment it is created. Even though registration is not required, here are five good reasons to consider registering your work.


Registration creates a public record and lets others know that you are the copyright owner.

Copyright registration, by creating a public record of your work, lets the world know that this specific work is protected. It allows people who might be interested in licensing your work a way to verify both that it is protected and that you own it.


Registration allows you to protect your copyright in court.

Registration is your first line of defense in an infringement action.

In order to file a lawsuit in federal court for copyright infringement, you must file an application for registration with the U.S. Copyright Office. Registration also gives you the presumptive right of copyright ownership. It satisfies the basic level of proof in court regarding the validity of your copyright, shifting the burden to prove that you are not the owner and/or that the work is not protected to the opposing party.


Registration could allow you to recover statutory damages and attorney’s fees.

If someone infringes on your copyright, it is extremely difficult to show the amount of harm you suffered. Actual damages, such as lost profits, would need to be documented in some way, and for many works this is next to impossible.

U.S. copyright law could allow you to recover statutory damages instead of having to prove the actual losses that resulted from infringement. Statutory damages relieve you of the burden of proving actual damages by allowing the recovery of a pre-determined award. You must meet strict rules regarding the timing of registration in order to recover statutory damages.


Record the registration with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to protect against importation of infringing works

It would be next to impossible to locate and prosecute every unauthorized importer, distributor, or retailer illegally using or selling your copyrighted work. One way to fight infringement is to record your registered copyright with U.S. Customs. The agency can then monitor imports and seize infringing merchandise at the ports of entry.


U.S. copyright registration may afford your work protection in other countries.

The United States has copyright relations with many countries throughout the world and, as a result of these agreements, these countries will honor U.S. copyrights. However, because not all countries are covered, you might want to investigate whether the countries you are interested in are included and seek out registration in those particular countries, if necessary.