Ashley Johnson

Ashley Johnson

Patent & Trademark Attorney

The Top 4 Reasons You Will Want To Copyright Your Work

Before We Start – What Exactly is a Copyright?

A copyright is a form of intellectual property protection available for original works of authorship fixed in tangible form. “Tangible Form” refers to a form that can be perceived directly or with the aid of a device – such as written on paper, recorded, or stored in a computer. Copyrights therefore protect written works (books, blogs, screenplays), musical and dramatic works (songs, choreography, plays), artistic works (photographs, paintings, sculptures), and software (computer programs). Copyrights provide exclusive rights to authors to protect their works for a limited amount of time, and also promote creativity and learning.

The copyright owner benefits from several exclusive rights, such as the right to reproduce the work, distribute copies, perform the work publicly, and display the work publicly. The copyright owner also has the right to transfer those rights to a third party – i.e., allow a third party to perform the work.

The term for copyrights created after January 1, 1978 is the life of the author plus an additional 70 years. For an anonymous work, the copyright term is 95 years from the date of the first publication or 120 years from the year of creation, whichever expires first.

Why Should You Register Your Copyright?

Registration creates a record of your copyright ownership. Copyright registration makes it significantly easier to assert your rights in the copyright. For example, if someone makes a claim against your copyright, it may be harder to assert your rights in court without having the work registered. In addition, registering your copyright allows the public to identify and locate copyright owners, such as to request a license or to ask permission to use a particular work. In this way, copyright owners can benefit from additional revenue from licensing and other uses of their registered works.

In addition, ownership is often disputed with copyrights. A public record at the U.S. Copyright Office demonstrates ownership in the event that ownership is ever challenged in the future.

You must have your copyright registered before you sue a 3rd party for copyright infringement.

In the U.S., a copyright owner cannot bring an infringement lawsuit unless they have first registered the copyright. This means that if someone uses your work in a way that you think infringes on your copyright, you must register the copyright before you can sue them for copyright infringement. In some cases, you can register the copyright and then file a lawsuit – but the fees to expedite handling will cost hundreds of dollars.

Most infringement violations are settled out of court. However, having a registered copyright allows the copyright holder to send a cease and desist letter with a real threat of further legal action should the infringer refuse to comply.

Allows you to recover statutory damages and attorney fees in a copyright infringement lawsuit.

One of the most compelling reasons to register a copyright is the ability to recover more money in the case of an infringement. If you register your copyright within three months of its creation, you are entitled to recover statutory damages and attorney fees if you are victorious in an infringement lawsuit. Statutory damages can range from about $750 to $30,000 per infringement work. This allows you to recover money without having to meet the difficult burden of proving your monetary loss or the infringer’s profit.

If you do not register your copyright within 3 months of publication, your only remedy in an infringement action is the actual damages you suffered from the infringement, as well as injunctive relief (a court order requiring the infringer to stop copying the work).

Protection against imports of infringing products.

After you register your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office, you can also register with the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The CBP is charged with enforcing U.S. regulations, including customs. Specifically, this agency is responsible for classifying and appraising commercially imported products that enter the U.S. They detect incidents of smuggling, commercial fraud, and counterfeiting and participate in related criminal investigations.

Why is this important? Registering with the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection allows you to receive protection against imports of infringing products. The CBP will seize and detain imported goods that violate intellectual property rights in the U.S.

What is Involved in the Copyright Registration Process?

The copyright process begins with filling out a copyright application with the U.S. Copyright Office ( The form is available online, and requires basic information to be submitted, such as the title of the work, author name, and date of creation. A copy of the work to be registered must also be deposited with the Copyright Office, along with the filing fee.

The time to registration can vary widely depending on Copyright Office staffing and delays, and can range from about 3 months to 9 months.


Although copyrights are automatically created once the work is produced in tangible form, registration with the U.S. Copyright Office has significant benefits to the author. For this reason, copyright owners should consider registering copyrights when the work at issue has market value or is important to business operations.

At Dogwood Patent and Trademark Law, we are happy to answer any questions when it comes to copyrights or help you file copyrights to protect your artistic creation. With offices in both Wilmington and Raleigh, we are here to help in every step of the process.

If you have questions or would like a free consultation please contact our office in Raleigh at (919) 576 7612 or in Wilmington at (910) 612-7027

Contact Us For Consultation

Intellectual property is often our clients’ most valuable asset and raises the most complex issues. Dogwood Law places emphasis on cost-effective counselling of clients. Whether you are just starting or have years of experience we can meet with you for a free consultation.

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