Copyright Registration: Why Wait?


Copyright registration is automatic; your work, whether it is a novel, a photograph, an architectural drawing, or any other eligible type of intellectual property, is automatically protected by a copyright. And official US Copyright Office registration costs $35.

So why would anyone ever want to pay for an official copyright registration? Let’s take a closer look at the hidden costs involved in waiting until someone is infringing on your copyright before getting an official copyright registration from the US Copyright Office.

Copyright protection is automatic.

First, let’s take a look at the automatic copyright protections that you’re entitled to simply by fixing your work in a tangible medium (meaning that the work exists somewhere outside of your own imagination, either physically, digitally, or otherwise). According to the Copyright Office:

Copyright protection subsists from the time the work is created in fixed form. The copyright in the work of authorship immediately becomes the property of the author who created the work.

Official copyright registration is, therefore, not a requirement for copyright protection.

Copyright registration, while not a legal requirement, provides other benefits to the copyright holder.

Among these benefits are:

  • Your contact information is kept on record. This means that anyone seeking to contact you with a licensing proposition or other financial arrangements will be easily able to do so by searching the Copyright Office’s registration database.
  • You’ll need a registration in order to bring legal action against someone. You can do this at any time, of course, but keep in mind that while a $35 registration can take up to 9 months to be processed, a rush filing will cost $760.
  • Registration provides courtroom incentives. If you register your copyright within three months of publication, it’s possible that you could be awarded attorney fees in addition to damages and profits. And registration within five years of publication establishes prima facie evidence of the copyright’s validity.

You might not be the type of person who could see themselves ever suing anyone. But would you feel the same way if you found out someone was benefiting financially from your hard work, without your permission? Would you rather spend $35 now and not need it, or wait until you do and have to spend $760 plus lawyer fees later? The choice is yours.