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NYC Litigation Blog

Monday, June 27, 2016

Your Work—How To Protect It With Copyright Registration

Are you a musician, artist, or writer and have an authentic work that you would like to protect?  

Your creation does not need to be published in order to file for protection.  However, it cannot merely be an idea.  An idea must, instead, be established in a “tangible medium of expression,” such as through a book, photo, drawing, or piece of architecture.  Moreover, you must be the true owner or author of the work in order to protect it.    

Copyright registration is optional and protection attaches to your work upon creation; however, registration is especially beneficial if you become involved in a lawsuit.  If your work is registered and your case prevails, further damages may be awarded and charges from your attorney may be covered as well.  Copyright registration will also help demonstrate your ownership of the work before the court.

There are multiple steps involved with registering your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office.  You must complete the application process and attach copies of your work, as required by the Library of Congress.  Copies might not be returned and payment is often non-refundable. 

You should also be aware that registration is public and anything you submit to the office will be posted online, including your address and name.  Publishers often inspect and search these public records.  An attorney can advise you of any privacy implications that you may be susceptible to. 

Furthermore, the public may utilize these records to link it to your creation and contact you through a third-party.  Once you register, the copyright claim is permanent, as is the information listed on the website.  You may be able to use an alias, nickname, or other method to protect yourself.   

The copyright process can be lengthy.  An attorney can help you decide which mode of application would be most realistic for your business purposes and finances.  For example, you may apply online at www.copyright.gov, which generally takes a maximum of eight months, or by paper, a maximum of thirteen months. 

Your registration date will be effective upon the Copyright Office’s receipt of the application, as long as all necessary documents and payments are enclosed and are sufficient.  This insight may help publishers understand when they are legally capable of publishing material that they did not yet receive a certificate for and when it is legally permissible to place a notice of copyright on the work.

If your claim is rejected, you will receive a written explanation from the Copyright Office with details as to why it was rejected.  Even if you have been denied protection on a previous occasion, the rejection does not prevent you from successfully receiving registration at a future date.  An attorney can review your denial letter and educate you on the appropriate procedure in order to be reconsidered or to have your application re-reviewed by the Copyright Office’s Registration Program or the Board of Review. 


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