You’ve created a song and want to protect your rights in it. As you may know, your song (or your short story, painting, etc.) is protected as soon as it is “fixed in a tangible medium of expression,” which means as soon as it’s written down, video taped, recorded, etc. Even without registering the copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office, you have certain rights in your song. You can potentially stop others from using it. But, there are three main additional benefits to registration:
(1) it creates a presumption of ownership and validity, so long as you register within five years of the date on which you release the work to the public;
(2) if you register the work before it is infringed, or in any case within three months of the date of publication, then you may be entitled to statutory damages and attorney’s fees; and
(3) you don’t have to wait to bring suit against an infringer (registration is almost always a prerequisite to bringing suit).
Fortunately, registration is both cheap (especially compared to its potential benefits) and easy. There is no reason why you can’t register your copyrights yourself. In fact, while usually government websites are an absolute mess, the first place you should visit is the Copyright Office’s website. There you will find a wealth of well-organized information, including some so-called “circulars” which explain everything from the nature of copyright to the exciting world of vessel hull registrations. However, what follows is a plain English explanation of the registration process and some helpful tips on registration generally.
The Cost of Registration and the Benefits of Filing Online
If you’re reading this article, then you probably have access to the internet. That’s good news, because filing your registration online with the Copyright Office only costs $35 per registration. To file online, visit the Copyright Office’s website and click on the eCO Login at the top right of the screen. Before proceeding, you must register as a user (which you do by providing some basic information and creating a username and password). Once you register as a user, you will be able to log in and file your registration online-you can even upload documents to satisfy your deposit requirement (more on that later).
Now, for the sake of completeness, I’d like to point 香港版權協會 out that you can still file your registration the old fashioned way, using real paper. The next cheapest method of registration is the Fill-In Form CO. Like it’s name suggests, this is the same form you would use if you eCO filed, it’s just provided to you in a form where you can print it out and fill it in and mail it back to the Copyright Office. However, for that privilege the Copyright Office charges you $50.
If you are really old school and want to register using the old paper forms, then you may do so for a fee of $65. The only real difference between these forms is the price. Clearly the Copyright Office wants to eliminate paper as much as possible, and the old paper forms are priced higher than the Fill-In Form CO because the latter use special barcode technology that enables the Copyright Office to process them more easily. If you can, then you should save money and time by eCO filing.
Having registered as a user, you are now ready to begin registration. There are three elements to a successful copyright registration: (1) completion of the eCO Form; (2) payment of the registration fee; and (3) the submission of deposit m