As long as humans keep creating, and as long as people want to make money with those creations, there will be a need for copyrights. So what are the benefits of copyright registration?
No matter if you’re a starving artist, a startup company, or a big corporation, copyrights matter, and knowing when they come into play, and how you can benefit from the law will be to your economic benefit!
… so listen up! (and turn off that music you’re listening to too) (oh, cool I said “to too” and it makes grammatical sense!)
There are many reasons why it is important for registering copyrights. To save you time I included 3 primary reasons for the benefits of copyright registration, so keep reading!
But first lets quickly cover some copyright basics.
So, pretty much any independent creation that is created by the human mind is protectable by copyright laws.
Are you taking hand-written notes while reading this? Doodling on the paper making a really weird-looking half-moon shaped twisted checkered pattern? Ok, it was just me… Or maybe you are bouncing your leg in a cool pattern or moving around/dancing kinda funny-like (don’t worry I’m not spying through your camera or anything)?
If you said “Yes” or even laughed at the above questions (because you’ve done those things before) then YOU ARE AN ARTIST!!! CONGRATS 🙂
And all artists (as soon as they create something in 3D – or “affixed to a tangible means” – no, it can’t just be in your head) you gain copyright protection in that creation immediately! This is called common-law copyright.
Common-law copyright protection is awesome. It bestows rights on artists on their creative works without even registering the copyright!
So… that “art” you’ve created on your notebook (yes, that funky blob of ink you made while on that important call) IS COPYRIGHTED.
Yes, you have the ability to prevent anyone from making or distributing copies of that creative work without your permission. However…do you really care? And THAT is the big question.
Big Question: Is your creative work valuable enough/ important enough to you (have you invested enough effort into it or care enough about it) to warrant enforcement and prevent others from making/using/distributing it?
Not sure? That’s ok. Traditionally, the following are examples of types of creative works that generally rise to the level of “value” or “importance” enough to seek copyright registration
Literary Works (books, website copy, articles, short stories, etc.)
What rights do you get if you’re the copyright owner?
Reproduce the work
Create “derivative works” founded on the original work of art
Distribute your work via sale, rent and even transfer of possession
Display/Show the work (for instance if it’s an art piece)
Big 3 Benefits of Copyright Registration
Legal Evidence: “Prima Facia” Copyright ownership
Know any Latin? Ok, well – then here’s a phrase: prima facia. It means “on its face”. If you’re ever faced with copyright infringement. Meaning, someone has taken your artwork and ripped it off, and is now trying to pass it off as their own – you want to be able to sue their butt.
Without a copyright registration, in your complaint against the allegedly infringing party, you’ll have to provide evidence that you are the actual original artist! Yikes… this could send you down a long rabbit hole of digging up old documents, emails, records, early sales and recreating history just to get to the point to where the judge now understands that you are the rightful owner… and you haven’t even started demonstrating how the other party is infringing.
So, to save you all that legal legwork (and not to mention $$$ paying your litigation attorney), get your copyright registered BEFORE you file a law suit.
By having the copyright registration with the Library of Congress you will gain this “prima facia” copyright, and instead of having to PROVE ownership, you just slide that registration paperwork over to the court, and they go, “oh, sweet” (but not really) and they move on to infringement right away.
Here is an example of what a “Certificate of Registration” looks like:
By the way here is a GREAT link for DIY-registration of creative work: The US copyright office has done an incredible job on their website making e-filing of creative works fairly straightforward. Here is a quick screenshot of their website:
Yeah! That’s a government website… I was impressed too.
Some artists (especially the starving variety) tend to want to save some money with their business dealings, so they file on their own. However, if you have some disposable income, and would rather focus your time/effort/energy on your art, you can hire an attorney to help you file your work, and they can help you think about the right way to phrase/position your filings for the best position, given your goals in the marketplace.
What artist doesn’t want their name in lights, right? Yeah! Getting a copyright registration can definitely help get an artist’s name some (likely well-deserved) press and notoriety for having their work registered.
The only problem is that (almost) no one goes to the Library of Congress and performs searches there. People will go to websites, social media, or stores and see products, buy services, and conduct business online. The real “public notice” will be in clearly labeling your creative work with “Copyright XYZ Company, All Rights Reserved” or your favorite combination of those words.
You can (and should) indicate on your website, on your book, on your packaging if possible, and anywhere that your art can be found that what the person is touching/hearing/viewing is copyright protected, and owned by you/your company.
Aside from properly telling people that your artwork is protected under copyright, it can give you an edge over your competition. By just taking seriously artwork at your company, or recognizing it when it crops up in your everyday entrepreneurial journey – you will begin to see just how your company stands out from the rest, and what makes you/your company special.
Lastly, by putting people on notice of your copyright, even if passively through markings on your website, or products (as shown in that article) above – you can use that notice to your advantage in litigation.
How Notice can Boost Litigation Position:
Let’s imagine you find that there is a serious infringement of your newly published book. Just months after publication/release of your new fiction book, a ripoff artist publishes a nearly identical book without hardly any attempt to hide the fact that they got everything from your book.
Aside from this blatant infringement of your copyright – you could (if you chose to sue them) seek not only normal damages but what’s called treble damages! Yes, they are in “trouble” but that’s not what “Treble” means. It means TRIPLE! Your threat to sue them gets supersized when you can prove that the infringers KNEW your art was copyright protected before they went ahead and infringed anyway.
The legal term for this is “Willful infringement”. There’s a great article (which goes into great detail on the legal framework and benefits:
Bottom line, if you can make that argument successfully, the court may award big damages to you, to make up for the fact that the infringer not only disregarded your ownership of the art but (attempted to) disregard the copyright law of the US.
Money: Reaping the financial benefits of creating awesome art
Through registration, you are “getting serious” about your art, and by going through the effort to register your works, aside from enforcing your copyright against infringers (as discussed above), you can also make money by licensing, selling, or assigning your copyright ownership to one or more third parties!
There are many rights that come with copyright protection depending on the kind of art that has been registered. For music, there are several comprising: lyrics, sheet music, vocals, and composition, not to mention the performance right nor the synchronization rights that come with combining music with another form of media.
As the owner of all or part of a work of art, you are able to license to a third party the ability to make/use/distribute your art in exchange for money! Usually, there is a royalty agreement put in place so that for every instance of use/song played/download/image taken, etc, the owner makes a small/incremental amount of money.
Selling and Assigning Copyrights:
In the same way, these rights that are owned by artists can be outright purchased or assigned for lump-sum amounts of money.
In these situations, there is usually still a license back to the original author/artist so they can continue to use their own writing to make improvements or new works of art stemming from the original.
To recap our article of the benefits of copyright registration here are the points we covered:
Legal Note: This blog article does not constitute legal advice. Although the article was written by a licensed USPTO patent attorney there are many factors and complexities that come into patenting an idea. We recommend you consult a lawyer if you want legal advice for your particular situation. No attorney-client or confidential relationship exists by simply reading and applying the steps stated in this blog article.