What is US Copyright Registration?
Unlike almost all other countries in the world, the US operates a system of copyright registration. Submitted works are deposited in the Library of Congress, and serve as a permanent public record of your work.
Registration nevertheless plays an invaluable role in the protection of copyright interests, both within the US, and around the world. US Registration is useful for authors from around the world. It serves as universal proof of the existence of a work at a particular time.
What can be registered?
You can register your video, literary, dramatic, design, musical or artistic work.
Why is registration useful?
Firstly, in order to bring a claim for infringement in the US, the work and author must be registered with the copyright office. courts will not entertain a claim without such a registration. it is a hard requirement, and thousands of authors find themselves lacking a registration every year, when they try to pursue legal action for infringement, but find that it is impossible to do so due to a lack of registration. they then require an emergency registration, which is done via (very expensive) special handling. Worse still, until the registration is completed, action cannot be brought. Throughout this entire time, infringement continues. As such, the cumulative cost can become very substantial. It is, therefore, ideal for every author to have a registration in place. You never know when it might become necessary to defend your copyright!
Secondly, registration creates a presumption of ownership - it is evidence of ownership in and of itself, with no further input required from the author until the presumption is overcome. It shifts the burden of proof from the registration holder to the claimant to prove that the registration is invalid, rather than expecting the registration holder to prove that their registration is valid.
This is a very useful distinction, as proving anything in Court requires significant resources, mostly in the forms of time, money, and stress. By placing this burden on the claimant, your work will be easier to defend in the case of legitimate claims by other copyright holders. Meanwhile, vexatious claims (illegitimate claims made for reasons of annoyance or revenge) have a higher bar to jump over, meaning that they are less frequent against copyright owners with a valid registration than those without.
In the case of competing registrations, the earlier one will carry this presumption. As such, the earlier an author registers their work, the better! There is no limit to when a registration can be made in relation to creation, but time is of the essence. Having an early registration prevents a nefarious person from creating a similar work to yours, registering it, and then using the above presumption to their advantage!
What if I don’t live in the USA - can I still register?
Yes! US registration is useful for authors from around the world. The US Copyright Office receives thousands upon thousands of international registrations every year. No matter where an author may live, registration with the US Copyright Office is a potentially valuable tool in their copyright toolbox.
Despite copyright registration being a feature of the US copyright system, it serves as universal proof of the existence of a work at a particular time. This is useful in all jurisdictions, as many disputes, due to the nature of copyright, boil down to ‘who created it first?’. Having an existing registration with the US Copyright Office will be a big help in both legal and extralegal (i.e. those outside Courts) disputes.