How do I register a copyright?

Registering a copyright is usually a straightforward process but can have problems if the person registering the work is unfamiliar with the process.  Although a copyright is obtained when you create an original work, registering your copyright can fully protect your work and strengthen potential cases for copyright infringement. Copyright registration requires submitting a completed form, filing fee, and copies or samples of the work to the U.S. Copyright Office. Hiring an attorney can avoid common problems and streamline the registration process. Allow us to guide you through the registration process and secure full protection for your work. We can prepare and file your copyright registration application according to the U.S. Copyright Office’s standards.

Registration can strengthen your claim and provide benefits beyond common-law copyright claims; only registered copyright holders can elect recover statutory damages. In addition to statutory damages, successful registered copyright claims can recover attorneys’ fees. Registration will make your copyright a matter of public record, which can provide additional protection.

What does a copyright protect?

Copyrights protect the rights of the creator of an original work. A copyright will allow you to control and profit from your hard work. Rights that often accompany a copyright include:

  • Copying the work
  • Distributing work for sale, rent, lease, etc.
  • Public performances of the work
  • Public displays, screenings, or transmissions of the work
  • Create products or pieces derivative of the copyrighted work

Most original works like novels, movies, songs, artwork, and software can be successfully copyrighted. Copyrights do not protect facts, ideas, systems or methods of operation, but some expression of these ideas may be protected with a copyright. The underlying idea may not be protected, but any form of original creative expression can be protected by copyright. Similarly, facts themselves cannot be protected by copyrights; although, expressions of them still cannot be copied without permission. The attorneys at Stone Law can use their intellectual property experience to exercise your rights protect your work under copyright law.

While a copyright gives robust protection to the rights of the holder, one limitation on copyrights is fair use. Fair use includes a variety of purposes that allow for reproduction that may otherwise be considered copyright infringement, including news reporting, scholarship, teaching, comment, and criticism. Additionally, Section 107 of title 17 U.S. Code provides four factors used to determine if something is fair use:

  • The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
  • The nature of the copyrighted work
  • The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
  • The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work

While these four factors might seem simple, determining whether fair use applies is difficult, and the attorneys at Stone Law can use their intellectual property experience to help prevent you from being accused of infringement. Citation or using only a small portion of a copyrighted work does not prevent infringement, and an experienced attorney can help you protect your work as fair use. If you plan on using copyrighted material or are concerned about similarities between your work and copyrighted work, you should consult an attorney. Stone Law has experience negotiating and drafting licensing agreements for the use of copyright material. The safest way to protect yourself from claims of infringement when another’s work is involved is to get permission from the copyright holder. If you are going to use material that may be copyrighted, Stone Law can help you avoid violating a copyright through either licensing or fair use.

The attorneys at Stone Law P.C. can guide you through the registration process to obtain the fullest protection for your work available under the law.