Copyrights protect works of authorship, such as books, paintings, musical compositions, architectural drawings, and computer programs. The owner of a copyright has the right to control the reproduction and publication of the work, among other things.

Under the current law in the United States and most other countries, copyright protection arises upon completion of a work of authorship. However, these rights are limited, and it is advisable to take additional steps to enhance the copyright protection. There are essentially two steps that should be taken: 1) place the correct copyright notice on the work itself; and 2) register the copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office.

The copyright notice should be included on all copies of a work which leave the author’s possession. A proper notice should include the word “Copyright” (or its abbreviation: a “C” in a circle), followed by the year of publication, and then the name of the owner of the copyright. Thereafter, immediately registering the copyright has several distinct benefits. It is important to prepare the application with the assistance of a law firm experienced in copyright matters, particularly where the applicant is not the exclusive author of the work.  Most importantly, a timely registration constitutes prima facie evidence of the validity of the copyright and the facts stated in the registration certificate. Failure to quickly file a copyright application may result in a limitation of remedies against infringement, such as the recovery of statutory damages and attorney fees. 

Regardless of the time of application, however, a registration is a prerequisite to filing a lawsuit for infringement. In addition, the owner of a copyright registration has the right to request U.S. Customs Officials to seize imported items that infringe the copyright.

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