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Copyright Protection under US Law

In the United States, the owner of a copyright has the ability of blocking unauthorized copying or public performance of a work protected by copyright.

Unlike the U.S. patent application filing strict guidelines, under the U.S. copyright law, a copyright application can be filed many years after the initial publication of a work, and still be eligible for a copyright registration. These laws apply for Michigan businesses and individuals, also. You should not put off filing your copyright registration, though. Even though there is no particular time limit for filing a copyright registration application, this should not make you think that copyright registration is unnecessary or that it need not be done promptly. 

Registering your work, photos, web copy, publications etc.. with the US Copyright Office is basically a copyright protection insurance policy. Copyright protection arises automatically the moment the author fixes the work in a tangible form, without the author having to do anything.

Copyright Trademark RegisterSo why register for copyright protection if you’re work is automatically protected? 

Four reasons why filing for copyright protection with the US Copyright Office is important:

  1. Copyright registration establishes a public record of your copyright and makes everyone aware that you have sought and claim copyright protection under the US Copyright laws. 
  2. You cannot sue any company or individual for copyright infringement until you have filed for copyright protection with the US Copyright Office.
  3. No awards for statutory damages or attorneys fees will be made for any infringement of a copyright in an unpublished work which occurs prior to the submission of the copyright registration documents. The same holds true for published works, unless the copyright registration is made within 3 months after the first publication.
  4. If the registration of your work is done within five years from its creation, it is considered prima facie evidence in court. Prima facie evidence means that if you ever went to court, proof of the copyright registration with the US Copyright Office would be sufficient evidence of your ownership of the copyrighted material. 

The only way for another party to win would be for them to present evidence showing:

  • that they had a pre-existing copyright claim to the work.
  • that you permitted them to use your work.
  • that you didn't actually create the work.
  • that you stole it from them.

If you’re serious about protecting your company or personal work, obtaining copyright protection under the US copyright laws is a smart and necessary step to take. 

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