Saturday, September 05, 2009

Electronic Registration of Copyrights: Online Tutorial Available

The Copyright Office has a useful tutorial for those who wish to file copyrights electronically. The tutorial is here and here. The Copyright Office's website has a number of free, downloadable publications explaining how to register copyrights, what qualifies as a copyrightable work, and how to answer many of the basic copyright questions one is likely to confront.

Electronic filing is a great advance. It still takes a long time to receive an actual copyright registration certificate. For impending litigation, a registration certificate can be expedited. This procedure is known as "special handling" and costs $685.

As a U.S. author, unless you've got a copyright registration certificate (or the Register of Copyrights has denied you one) you generally can't sue in federal court. You can register after an infringement, but there are big disadvantages for waiting until you've been ripped off.

Unless you register your copyrights early, you may not be entitled to "statutory damages" and attorneys fees. When a copyright owner has failed to timely register, it puts the owner at a great disadvantage in obtaining compensation for copyright infringements.

Registering copyrights, registering license agreements, and registering transactions involving copyrights is extremely important. The news is full of transactions gone bad because transactional attorneys did not seem to understand the meaning or scope of licensing agreements.

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