Technically speaking, as soon as you write something down, you have a form of copyright. So copyright law should be easy, right? Unfortunately, nothing is ever so cut-and-dry. For one thing, you only have what’s called a common-law copyright; however if you register your (U.S.) work with the U.S. Copyright Office, you get a number of benefits:
- You can sue someone for infringing on your work.
- You have a public record that this is your work.
- It will establish prima facie evidence in court that your copyright is valid if you registered it before or within five years of publication.
- You can get statutory damages (up to $150,000 per work) and attorney’s fees if you registered it within three months after publication or prior to an infringement.
- You can get the U. S. Customs Service to protect against infringing copies of your work being imported to the U.S.
Realistically, you can register your work at any time but the sooner the better. In a nutshell, registration of a copyright is evidence of the date of creation and puts everyone else on notice that you’re taking this seriously. But even when you register a copyright, its duration is complex: currently a copyright created now will last your lifetime, plus 70 years; a copyright created by an independent contractor lasts the earlier of: 95 years of publication or 120 from when it was created. Here’s a graphic that may help you understand:
Like we said, not so cut-and-dry. But that’s ok because we don’t just register copyrights, we help you wend your way through the complexities of copyright law. Moreover, with our basis in litigation, we’re truly a full-service firm that can help your fully exploit all you can from the power of your copyright. Copyright law is complex and multilayered. Let us help you understand how to use it to it’s maximum potential.