What you should know about copyright protection

From guest blogger Lesley Ellen Harris, copyright lawyer and Certificate in Copyright Management instructor:

What do you need to do to have copyright protection in the U.S.? Nothing. Once an original work is created and written on paper, musically notated, or saved on your hard drive, the work has immediate and automatic copyright protection. You do not need to register the work or deposit a copy of it with the U.S. Copyright Office, nor use the well-known copyright symbol, ©.

The fact that copyright protection is automatic in the U.S. is a much-misunderstood concept. That’s because this wasn’t always true. It was necessary to register, deposit and use the © symbol until 1989 when there was a change in the U.S. copyright law.

Copyright Registration

Although the U.S. copyright law no longer requires registration, deposit or use of the © symbol, doing these things provides certain benefits if you ever have to enforce your rights. First, registration is necessary if you are a U.S. citizen or legal resident with a work first published in the U.S. and you want to initiate a copyright infringement lawsuit.  If you register within three months of creating the work, you will have a legal presumption that your copyright is valid, and if you are successful you may receive special statutory damages without having to prove any fiscal harm, as well as attorney fees. Further, once your work is registered, those who want to use your work will be able to find information about it in the records of the U.S. Copyright Office and ask your permission to use your work.

Copyright Notice

Although not mandatory, including a © notice on your work is recommended. It reminds people that copyright exists in your work and may deter some unauthorized uses of it.

Automatic Copyright Protection in 166 Countries

As a bonus, once a work is automatically protected in the U.S., it is protected in 166 (including the U.S.) countries around the world under the Berne Copyright Convention.

Learn More

More information about copyright management, including protection and exploitation of rights and infringement remedies, will be shared in CCM200, an online course from SLA's Click University that explores U.S. Copyright law.  CCM200 starts Thursday, February 21. Register today!

Questions?  Contact Click University staff or Lesley Ellen HarrisFollow Lesley on Twitter.


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