Several clients have asked me two related questions over the past few weeks so figured it was a sign that a blog post was in order. The first question is what is the advantage of registering a copyright on my intellectual property. The second question is that advantage worth the cost of registering for a copyright.
First, let me preface this post with several caveats. First, as always, this post isn’t legal advice. Each situation is different. I don’t know your situation, and can’t know yours, unless you call me and we talk. Therefore, take everything I say with a grain of salt and use it to enlighten yourself. Don’t rely on it. Come see me (or an attorney of your choosing) for concrete advice. Second, a lot of what I am saying in here is as a writer of the “Legal Solutions for Small Business” blog and a frequent poster of intellectual property online. It is not as an attorney; it is what I have, and have seen, are the best practices. Best practices are just that, best for some, but terrible for others. Again, call me or email me (or an attorney of your choosing) to see if the best practices are good for you.
So with that said, what is the answer to what is the advantage? The advantage is in what damages you can claim if you have to sue someone over copyright infringement. Without registering your copyright, typically you can only get actual damages – the damages that you actually suffered and can prove. This may include lost revenue and reputational damage. It may also include any money that the person that infringed on your copyright made. When you register, you may be eligible for additional statutory damages – damages that are given to you by law and that you don’t have to prove. You may also become eligible to receive attorney fees and other benefits.
So is it worth it to register? This question needs to be answered on a case-by-case basis. Personally, I don’t register the pictures that I put on Facebook from my vacation, quick things that I write here and there, or information that is extremely general in nature (i.e. a post on a community forum). However, blog posts, articles, websites, and pictures that are more professional in nature may need copyrights to ensure that if someone does commit copyright infringement, you have a greater leg to stand on if you have to get into a dispute about copyright infringement. Some people are much more caution than I am, though, and register everything. It really depends on your personal situation and the advice that you receive from your attorney.