Copyright Registration Procedures in the U.S

The United States has its own copyright registration procedures for works seeking copyright protection in the U.S. In general, one can register copyrights at any time within the life of the copyright. Copyright registrations create a public notice record.  Even though copyright registration is not a requirement for protection, U.S. copyright law provides several advantages.

U.S. Copyright Registration Procedures

Copyright registration establishes a public record of the copyright claim. Registration within 5 years of publication created prima facie evidence of the validity of the copyright registration. When registration is within 3 months after publication or prior to infringement, statutory damages and attorneys’ fees will be available. Otherwise, only an award of actual damages and profits is available to the copyright owner in such actions. Copyright registration also allows the owner of the copyright to record the registration with the U.S. Customs Service for protection against the importation of infringing copies.

The U.S. Copyright Office implemented an electronic filing system to apply for a U.S. copyright registration. The electronic system, however, currently only handles certain applications. Please check the U.S. Copyright Office website for the latest updates. Overall, copyright registration procedures are relatively simple. However, information in the application needs to accurately and correctly state facts related to the underlying work. Inaccurate information could invalidate the application or the copyright registration. It is advisable to have a copyright attorney prepare or review an application for copyright registration before filing.

Rights Obtained Through Copyright Registration

A copyright owner has exclusive right to reproduce the work, prepare copies, distribute the work, and perform the work publicly. An owner can assert his rights under a U.S. copyright registration and can prevent others from copying, making derivative works of, performing, distributing, or selling copies or counterfeits of original works of authorship, such as music, lyrics, books, plays, poems, paintings, sculpture, photographs, architectural designs, and software. Rights granted under a U.S. copyright registration are not absolute and certain copyright laws limit the copyright owner’s exclusive rights. The fair use doctrine, for example, provides exceptions to copyright protection. It also allows certain copying by third parties for criticism, news reporting, teaching, and research.

Copyright registration is not a prerequisite for use of the copyright symbol ©. The symbol informs the world of copyright ownership. In general, the notice should include the name of the copyright owner and year of first publication (e.g., © 2006 John Doe). The notice is not a requirement. However, if an infringed work carries the proper notice, a defendant cannot rely on an innocent infringement defense to reduce damages that the copyright owner would otherwise receive. Moreover, copyright registration does not generally affect the term of the U.S. copyright.

The term of U.S. copyright protection can vary according to the date of creation, the date of publication, and the type of work. As a general rule, for works created after January 1, 1978, copyright protection lasts for the life of the author plus an additional 70 years. For an anonymous work, a pseudonymous work, or a work made for hire, Copyright protection is generally afforded 95 years from the year of its first publication or a term of 120 years from the year of its creation, whichever expires first.

About the Firm:

Klemchuk LLP is an Intellectual Property (IP), Technology, Internet, and Business law firm.  The firm offers comprehensive legal services including litigation and enforcement of all forms of IP as well as registration and licensing of patents, trademarks, trade dress, and copyrights.  The firm also provides a wide range of technology, Internet, e-commerce, and business services including business planning, formation, and financing, mergers and acquisitions, business litigation, data privacy, and domain name dispute resolution.  Additional information about the IP law firm and its IP law attorneys may be found at

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