I often get asked questions about copyright and whether registration is actually necessary. My answer, of course, is always “Yes! It’s necessary!” When copyright registration is simple, inexpensive, and the best way to protect your work, why not take advantage of it?
Registering your copyright is the best way to protect your work. Once you have your work in concrete form (song recorded, words written) it immediately has copyright protection. But how would you prove that it’s yours if you ever had to? The only way to do so is through registration. I have spoken with many artists who use “poor man’s copyright”, which is where you take your work, put it in an envelope, and mail it to yourself. The idea is that you can now prove that you created this piece of work on a certain date. But the reality is that this does not prove anything except that you put something in an envelope and mailed it to yourself. This would not hold up as evidence if you ever had to prove that you created the work, and if you went this route, you are likely looking at a lengthy and expensive lawsuit. The best way to protect your work is to register your copyright.
By registering your copyright, not only do you have proof that you created something on a specific date, you also receive numerous benefits from the registration. First, you can sue under the U.S. Copyright Act if you ever need to. Without a registration, you can’t. Second, you get to ask for “statutory damages”, which means you can ask for a set amount of money rather than having to prove how much money you have actually lost and how much money the infringer made off of your work. And very importantly, you can ask for your attorney’s fees to be paid by the infringer, which can get very expensive in copyright cases. As another benefit, there are many attorneys who will take your case on contingency when you have a valid copyright registration. Most won’t even consider it if you haven’t registered.
The registration process if fairly simple and straightforward and the Copyright Office provides valuable information on its website to help you do this. While you can pay an attorney to do this for you, I highly encourage all artists to learn how to do it. Here is a link that includes instructions on how to register your copyright: http://copyright.gov/eco/. And the great new is that the most basic form, if filed online, only costs $35!
So, what’s holding you back from protecting your music? Copyright registration is fairly simple, gives you many great protections, and is inexpensive. It only makes sense to take the extra step of registering your copyright to protect your music.
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