Federal Copyright Registration

Our attorneys have obtained federal copyright registrations for textual works, computer software, sound recordings, and works of visual art such as paintings and sculptures on behalf of clients in a variety of fields. We handle all aspects of the copyright registration process, including drafting of the application, responding to any objections posted by the United States Copyright Register’s Office, and ensuring the accuracy of the registration certificate.

The copyright registration process and the benefits of copyright registration are summarized below. This summary is provided for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal advice. Any specific question about copyright law should be directed to an attorney in our Copyright Practice Group.

Overview of Copyright Registration Process

A party can apply for federal copyright registration for certain original works either before or after the work has been made publicly available. An application form, together with “deposit” copies of the work, must be filed with the Copyright Office. The Copyright Office reviews the application and may require corrections, clarification, or additional information, or may refuse to register the copyright claim for various reasons. The Copyright Office does not determine whether the work infringes another copyright.

In the event of a refusal to register, an applicant may respond to the Copyright Office’s objections by filing a request for reconsideration by the Examining Division, and, if registration is again refused, by filing a request for reconsideration by a Review Board. If the Copyright Office agrees to register the copyright claim, it issues a copyright registration certificate. The term of copyright protection depends upon the year in which the work was first created and published. For works created on or after January 1, 1978, the copyright expires 70 years after the author’s death. For works made for hire created on or after January 1, 1978, the copyright duration is 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation, whichever is shorter. For works created prior to January 1, 1978, the copyright term generally lasted 28 years but could be renewed for an additional period during the 28th year. Calculating the duration of copyright terms of works created prior to January 1, 1978 requires careful analysis and must be based on the individual facts of each case.

Benefits of Federal Copyright Registration

Required for Infringement Suit. Generally speaking, unless the copyrighted work has been registered (or the Copyright Office has refused registration although the required deposit, application and fee were properly filed), a court action for infringement of the copyright will be dismissed.

Required for Statutory Damages. If registration is made within three months after the first publication of the work or prior to infringement, certain damages and attorneys’ fees provided by law will be available, in addition to actual damages and lost profits.

Presumption of Validity. In any judicial proceeding, a certificate of registration issued within five years of the first publication of the work confers a legal presumption that the copyright is valid and that all facts stated in the copyright registration certificate are true.

Protection Against Importation of Infringing Copies. A copyright owner can record the registration with the U.S. Customs Service for protection against the importation of infringing works.