Should I register my work for copyright protection?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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You should register your work for copyright protection within ninety days of publication. Although it is not mandatory, copyright registration does two important things with regard to copyright protection:

(1) It provides a record of you having created the material and its format as of the date of registration. Being able to prove you created the work first is often the most important part of a copyright lawsuit.

(2) It gives you additional rights like the ability to get damages as set forth in the law and attorneys fees.

While copyright law does give everyone an assumed copyright to their work the moment it is published, this assumed copyright lacks certain requirements if someone tries to misappropriate your work. For instance, if you place an article in a free magazine that was not copyrighted and someone from the city’s newspaper picks up the article and claims it as their own, obtaining a formal copyright to the article, you will have a substantially more difficult burden of proving that your publication came first.

Copyright registration is as simple as filling out a form that you can print online. Once you’ve filled out and submitted the online form you will need to pay the online fee for filing and submit a copy of your work. A copy of all copyrighted works is kept by the copyright office for the purposes of both historical preservation and referencing in case of misappropriation. Once you have registered your copyrighted work, it is officially copyright protected and considered exclusively yours until 70 years after your death. At that point, it becomes public domain and anyone can use it. However, you and your immediate family will have long enjoyed the benefits of the copyright protection by then. 

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