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Copyrights: Do We Need to Copyright Our Works?

© 1996 Victoria Carver

As you know, a person acquires federal copyright protection in an original work from the moment of creation. Registration with the United States Copyright Office is not required.

However, there are important advantages for the owner of a federal copyright registration. First of all, copyright registration is a prerequisite to the filing of a copyright infringement action. Second, in litigation, copyright registration is prima facie evidence of copyright validity. Third, statutory damages and attorney's fees are available only if the copyright was registered before the infringement commenced (or within three months after first publication of the work). Statutory damages, in lieu of actual damages can be awarded by the district court in the amount of $500 to $20,000. If the court finds that the infringement was intentional, it has the discretion to award statutory damages up to a total of $100,000. There are other advantages as well.

Although registration of copyright is voluntary, once the work is published, the deposit requirement is mandatory! Pursuant to Section 407 of the Copyright Act (Title 17, United States Code) upon publication, which is defined in the copyright law as 'the distribution of copies...of a work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending,' the owner of copyright must deposit the required number of copies in the Copyright Office within three (3) months of the date of publication. The deposit requirement for a published non-dramatic literary work is satisfied by the submission of two (2) complete copies of the best edition of the published work. The deposit should be sent to: The Register of Copyrights, Attn: 407 Deposits, Library of Congress, Washington D.C. 20559-6000.

To satisfy the required deposit and to register your copyright at the same time, send in one package to the Register of Copyrights: (1) mandatory deposit copies, (2) a completed application for registration, and (3) a $20 nonrefundable filing fee payable to the Register of Copyrights.

Victoria A. Carver is an attorney who specializes in Intellectual Property Matters . She is with the law firm of Carver and Haase, 1215 De La Vina Street, Suite K, Santa Barbara, CA 93101. Her phone number is (805) 882-9120.



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