From Now On
|Vol 12|No 3|November|2002|
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In the U.S., effective copyright protection requires formal registration of the work. Registration becomes essential when someone infringes upon your copyright and you wish to take legal action to stop them, win legal and court expenses or claim significant damages.
Effective Protection Requires Registration
The Copyright Office FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions - http://www.copyright.gov/faq.html#q13) state that one should register copyright to be protected, since legal action to stop infringement may not be taken without registration, and infringement that occurs before such formal registration probably will not lead to an award of statutory damages or reimbursement of attorneys fees.
How the Legal Process Can Work Against the Writer
Large educational organizations, corporations, publishers, their insurance companies, and their attorneys may use delaying tactics to continue using infringed work after being warned. Their legal resources are usually extensive. The costs involved in blocking their infringement can be immense - ranging into the $15,000 - $100,000 range.
One of the first questions they may ask is whether the work in question is registered. If they learn the work is unregistered, they may rely upon delay to run up the writer's legal bills, knowing that the writer can do little financial damage in court. If the infringement occurs before registration, the victim of infringement pays his/her own legal bills and can win little in the way of damages. It may cost $15,000 or more to stop the infringement, and none of those legal costs are recoverable unless there is a settlement.
While this dispute is running its course, the offending parties may continue to offer and distribute the infringing materials after being formally warned. If the works in question have not been formally registered, they are pretty much able to ignore the letters and threats from the lawyers of the copyright owner.
In cases where work has not been formally registered, the most powerful weapon of the writer may be an appeal to the court of public opinion - letting readers know about the infringement, naming names and exposing the theft of intellectual property for what it is. Companies that employ delaying tactics within the legal system sometimes change strategies when they face public exposure.
Timely Registration gives the writer far more clout in cases of infringement, and the process is not all that complicated or expensive. The layperson can fill out the registration forms (see below) and the fee is only $30.
Steps to Complete Registration
The Office of Copyright offers clear instructions on its Web site at http://www.copyright.gov/eco/help-registration-steps.html.
All necessary forms are available online at http://www.copyright.gov/forms/ in PDF format.
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Credits: The photographs were shot by Jamie McKenzie.