Legal Issues  «Prev  Next»

Lesson 4Registering a copyright
Objective Describe the advantages of registering a copyright.

Registering a Copyright

When you create Web pages and send email, the contents are technically protected as soon as you create them.
However, if you actually want to sue someone for using your material without permission, you must first obtain a copyright registration. A copyright registration is a legal document that proves you are the author of the content.
Under the law, if you obtain a registration within three months after publication of the work or prior to an infringement of the work, statutory damages and attorney's fees will be available to you as the copyright owner in court actions. Otherwise, you only will be awarded actual damages and profits.

United States Copyright
In Thron v. Harper Collins Publishers, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant misappropriated two of his allegedly copyrighted photographs for use in a book published by the defendant. The plaintiff further contended that the defendant's subsequent efforts to publicize the book through the Internet violated the CMI provisions of the DMCA because the plaintiff had provided with a digital image of one of the photographs that was allegedly impermissibly altered to remove certain unspecified information related to the plaintiff's copyright registration. The court rejected this claim because the plaintiff's copyright registration was itself invalid and because the plaintiff had submitted no competent, admissible evidence to support any finding that the defendant removed or altered the information intentionally, as required by the statute.

Registration in the U.S. Copyright Office

The moment the original work is created and "fixed in a tangible medium of expression", copyright law protects it, even if it is never federally registered. Although copyright law protects an original and creative work, filing for the registration in the U.S. Copyright Office is a prerequisite for initiating a legal claim for copyright infringement in the federalcourt system. The courts have held that the registration requirement is a jurisdictional prerequisite to an infringement suit.

In the next lesson, you will learn how trademarks and service marks are used.