top of page

How is copyright protection secured?

Copyright is a legal right granted under the laws of the United States to the creator of original works of authorship. These legal rights provide creators control over their original works and the exclusive right to use, share, and monetize them.

In the U.S., copyright protection is automatic upon the creation of the work and its fixation in a tangible medium of expression, such as writing it down or recording it. An original work may also be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office, which provides for legal benefits.

Original works that may secure copyright protection include:

  • Literary Works: Books, articles, poetry, and other written compositions.

  • Musical Works: Compositions, lyrics, and sound recordings.

  • Dramatic Works: Plays, scripts, and accompanying music.

  • Artistic Works: Paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs, and architectural designs.

  • Audiovisual Works: Movies, television shows, and online videos.

  • Software: The non-functional elements of computer programs, databases, and other digital works.

What are the benefits of registering an original work of authorship?

While copyright protection in the United States is automatic upon the creation of original work fixed in a tangible medium, registering this work with the U.S. Copyright Office unlocks a suite of legal benefits and protections.

Prerequisite for infringement litigation

One of the most significant benefits of registering your work with the U.S. Copyright Office is that it is a legal prerequisite for filing an infringement lawsuit in a U.S. court. Without a registration certificate, creators are essentially barred from seeking judicial recourse to enforce their copyright. This ability to litigate is critical in deterring potential infringers and taking decisive action against unauthorized use of your work.

A public record of ownership

Registration creates a public, official record of the copyright and the details of the copyright owner. This public record is invaluable for asserting ownership, resolving disputes, and conducting business dealings related to the copyrighted work. It serves as prima facie evidence of copyright ownership in court, providing a strong legal footing for the registered copyright holder.

Eligibility for Statutory Damages and Attorney’s Fees

A compelling reason for registration is the eligibility for statutory damages and attorney’s fees in successful infringement litigation. Suppose registration is completed before infringement or within three months of publication of the original work. In that case, the copyright owner can opt for statutory damages and recover attorney’s fees from the infringer. This is a powerful deterrent against copyright infringement, as the potential financial liability for infringers significantly increases. Without registration within the defined time period, copyright owners are limited to actual damages and lost profits, which can be difficult and costly to prove.

Facilitating Licensing and Assignments

Copyright registration simplifies the process of licensing and transferring rights. With a clear public record of copyright ownership, creators can more easily negotiate and enter into licensing agreements, sell their rights, or transfer them as part of business arrangements. This can open up new revenue streams and partnership opportunities, enhancing the commercial value of the copyrighted work.

International Protection

While copyright protection is inherently international due to treaties like the Berne Convention, U.S. registration can bolster international protection efforts. It provides a formal basis for pursuing infringement claims domestically and in other countries that recognize U.S. copyrights, offering a strategic advantage in the global marketplace.

Deterrence of Infringement

Registration and the ability to publicly display a copyright notice deter potential infringers. Knowing that a work is registered and that the copyright owner is entitled to statutory damages can make unauthorized users think twice before using the work without permission.

Do you need to register an original work?

Understanding and leveraging the benefits of U.S. copyright registrations is essential for creators and copyright owners looking to navigate the complexities of intellectual property protection.

To discuss copyright protection for your original work of authorship, contact TCP Law at or John Laurence by phone at 917-612-1059.


John Laurence TCP Law, Trademark Patent Copyright Lawyer

TCP Law focuses on helping individuals and businesses develop, secure, and enforce their intellectual property rights.

Recent Posts

Get tips and insights just like this one from TCP Law right in your inbox

Thanks for subscribing!

TCP Law logo

Specialists in Trademark, Patent, and Copyright Law

bottom of page