It is now mandatory to register your copyrights with the U.S. Copyright Office before filing a lawsuit. Only copyright holders who have obtained a decision regarding their application may file a lawsuit. Pending applications are not eligible.
The U.S. Copyright Act grants copyright holders the exclusive right to copyright holders to do the following:
- Reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords.
- Prepare derivative works based upon the work.
- Distribute copies or phonorecords of the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending.
- Perform the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works.
- Display the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work.
- Perform the work publicly (in the case of sound recordings*) by means of a digital audio transmission.
Copyright holders can also grant others to perform the actions above.
Copyright protection exists automatically upon fixation of the work. However, there are a number of benefits to having your content registered with the U.S. Copyright Office:
- You receive a certificate of registration.
- Before an infringement suit may be filed in court, registration is necessary for works of U.S. origin.
- By registering your content, you may be eligible to collect statutory damages (up to $150,000 per infringement) and attorney's fees from litigation.
- There is a public record of your ownership, your collaborators’ ownership, and the other relevant details of your content.
- If registration occurs within 5 years of the publication of your content, your registration is considered prima facie evidence in a court of law.
- You can record the registration with the U.S. Customs Service for protection against the importation of infringing copies.