Is Copyrighting Really Necessary?

By Grygor Scott

Federal copyright laws protect original works of authorship. Copyright is available for many types of works, ranging from books and songs to architectural designs and computer programs. Copyrights protect both published and unpublished works. Authors have the option of registering copyrights with the federal government. Whether registering a work’s copyright is necessary depends on several factors.

Copyright Protections

Copyright holders have certain property rights with respect to their works. They can prevent others from reproducing or distributing copies of their works, performing or displaying their works and creating derivative works. If a party uses copyrighted material without the copyright holder’s permission, the copyright holder may sue the party to stop the infringement. Under certain circumstances, the copyright holder may also be awarded compensation for losses that resulted from the infringement.

Securing a Copyright

Unlike patents and trademarks, copyrights do not require registration. A creator of an original work of authorship secures copyright protection the moment she creates the work and fixes it in a tangible form. A work is fixed in a tangible form if a person can observe it either directly or with the assistance of a device or machine. A copyright’s term begins when the work is created and fixed, and, in most cases, it lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years.

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Copyright Registration

Federal laws have established a copyright registration system. Registration provides a public record of the basic elements of a particular copyright, such as the work's author, title and year of creation or publication. To register a copyright, a creator of an original work fills out a registration form, pays a nominal fee and sends the U.S. Copyright Office copies of the work.

Registration Benefits

Copyright registration provides three major benefits. Registering a copyright makes it easier for a copyright holder to stop infringement and recover damages from an infringer. Copyright laws require a copyright holder to have a registered copyright before she can file a lawsuit in federal court for copyright infringement. Registration also creates a legal presumption that the work’s copyright is valid. This shifts the burden of proof from the copyright holder to the alleged infringer. Thus, a defendant in an infringement lawsuit would have the burden to prove that the plaintiff’s registered copyright is not valid. Finally, if a jury finds that a registered work has been infringed and the infringement took place after registration, the copyright holder may recover attorney’s fees and up to $150,000 in damages without having to prove that the infringement caused monetary harm. Proving how much infringement actually cost a copyright holder can be difficult.


Determining whether the time, effort and expense of copyright registration are worthwhile depends on the nature of the work. Factors to consider include whether the work will be published, how likely it is that someone will infringe the copyright and the economic impact of an infringement. Because registration has a low cost and is relatively easy, it usually makes sense for most published or commercially viable works. Registration may not be necessary for works that have limited commercial potential or present little risk of infringement.

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Why Should I Copyright My Thesis?



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How to Copyright a Quotation

Quotations are not typically copyrighted; rather, the work of which the quotation is a part of is the copyrighted work. It can be difficult to ensure that a quotation receives copyright protection because "fair use" permits excerpts of a copyrighted work to be used for limited scholarly and educational purposes. However, there are several steps authors can take to protect their quotations and, depending on the length of quotation and how it is published, they may be able to enforce their copyrights.

Are Company Slogans Copyrighted?

Federal copyright law grants exclusive rights to the use of “original works of authorship,” whether or not they are published. Copyright law protects a broad range of works, including books, poems, songs, paintings and even computer programs. However, copyright law normally does not protect short phrases, such as a company slogan. Trademark law, on the other hand, specifically protects slogans that companies use to identify themselves as the maker of a product.

Copyright Rules & Time Limits

U.S. federal laws provide the basis for copyright rules and time limits. The general purpose of copyright law is to encourage and protect artistic and literary creativity by giving artists and authors legal protection over their creations. However, because the general public also has an interest in acquiring the right to use those creations, copyrights do not exist in perpetuity.

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