Anyone who has had their work stolen knows how frustrating, and often downright infuriating, it is when someone illegally uses their copyrighted work. With the prevalence of the internet in today’s society, unfortunately, copyright infringement has become a very real problem for many writers, artists, and other creators.
According to U.S. law, copyright is legally established the moment a work is created. You, as the author of the work, are automatically the legal holder of the copyright when you create a piece of work, granted that the work is eligible for protection. Those works protected by copyright include literary, musical, dramatic, choreographic, sculptural, graphic, pictorial, audio visual and architectural works. Also covered by U.S. laws are pantomimes, motion pictures, and sound recordings.
However, you will not hold legal copyright if you have entered into a work-for-hire agreement to transfer all rights of a work you created to another individual or business. In such an instance, you will surrender all of your rights to the work, provided there is a written agreement signed by you or your legal representative agreeing to transfer copyright.
Even though you legally hold copyright when you create a specific work, you should still seriously consider officially registering your work with the U.S Copyright Office for several very important reasons:
1. Copyrighting your work gives you the legal ability to file a lawsuit against anyone who has infringed upon that copyright. You cannot take legal action against another until your work, provided it originates from the United States, has been registered with the U.S. Copyright Office.
2. Should you have to take someone, who has infringed upon your copyright, to court, you can also sue for statutory damages and attorney’s fees if you meet one condition: You must have registered your work with the U.S. Copyright Office within three months of having published the work or you must have registered the copyright before the copyright theft or infringement occurred.
If you have not met either of those conditions, you can still take legal action, provided you register your work. However, you will only be eligible to receive actual damages should you win your suit.
3. When you register your work with the U.S. copyright office, the copyright becomes a part of public record.
4. After you’ve registered a copyright, you’ll receive a certification of registration in hard copy form, making it easy to provide physical proof that you hold legal copyright to your work.
5. In addition to being protected against copyright theft and infringement in the United States, registering a copyright also provides you with protection in certain countries that have adopted a copyright agreement with the United States.
For full protection against copyright infringement and copyright theft, you must register your work with the U.S. Copyright Office, contrary to what some believe. Do not fall prey to the notion that a so-called “Poor Man’s Copyright” – mailing a copy of your work to yourself then leaving the envelope unsealed – will protect you should your work be stolen or infringed upon.
According to the U.S. Copyright Office, “There is no provision in the copyright law regarding any such type of protection, and it is not a substitute for registration.” Should you register your work before it has been published, you will not again have to register it once it has been published.Even if you do not register your work, you are entitled to use the Copyright sign or Copyright symbol to provide notice to the public that you are aware of your rights in your work.
Adler Pollock Sheehan P.C is a copyright law firm, specializing in intellectual property matters and on-line protection. Go to his web site to learn more about US copyright law or contact a copyright infringement lawyer directly for a free consultation, as well as the particular problems presented by on-line infringement.
Adler Pollock Sheehan P.C is a highly experianced copyright law firm located in New Port, Rhode Island and are avaliable to help you in your case.