The following is an edited transcript of my video “The 5 Ws of Copyright Registration”.
The five Ws: Who, What, When, Where, and Why. Maybe you remember these from elementary school—I know I do. I want to apply that to copyright registration
Who can register a copyright? The simple answer is the owner of the copyright, but that can be more complicated than it seems, particularly if there’s an appointment relationship or other contractual relationship. The author of the work is not always the owner of the work. It is the owner of the work who generally would register a copyright.
What is a copyright registration? A copyright registration is a certificate. You can see an example on the video at erikpelton.tv, a certificate issued by the Library of Congress that contains all the details of the copyright and describes the deposit of the actual work that is submitted to the Library of Congress in order to obtain that registration. When the Library of Congress reviews a copyright application, they don’t do the same kind of in-depth substantive review that the USPTO does for a patent or trademark filing. It’s more of an administrative review. If ever there’s a dispute about the copyright involving the registration, then a court would dig in more to the substance.
When to register a copyright? There’s no timing requirement, but It’s always advantageous to do these things sooner rather than later, because you can only assert statutory damages in a claim in court if the copyright is registered or pending. You could always go back if the work is evolving or changing and file a new copyright for the updated versions in the future.
Where does one register a copyright? The Library of Congress, which hosts the copyright office. You can find more information about that at copyright.gov, where copyrights are registered.
Why would one want to register a copyright? It helps to deal with copycats and infringers. Having a registration makes a much stronger claim, a much stronger threat or letter when you’re trying to get someone who might be copying it to stop and to take it down. The reason is because it gives the owner rights and the ability to sue in court and collect more money, and therefore, that makes the threat that much more intimidating.
EMP&A recently and proudly became the owners of copyright registration for the Building A Bold Brand book. On its face, it appears somewhat simple to answer the questions and fill out the fields in the form. But, there’s a lot of nuance as to how the work is described, what gets deposited, the ownership and authorship questions, and things are never quite as simple as they seem when it comes to intellectual property.