By Jaylen Johnson, attorney-advisor, and George Thuronyi, deputy director, of the Office of Public Information and Education
Today, on our 152nd birthday, the U.S. Copyright Office celebrates a historic milestone: the 40 millionth copyright registration made in the United States! As we acknowledge this monumental achievement, we reflect on the importance of copyright registration and highlight some of our creative works and copyright owners that have received the benefits of registration.
Here we feature a few representative examples of registrations submitted and approved within the 40 millionth timeframe.
“Keep on Believing” (PA2354572) was composed by Michael John Orton, performed by the Silvers, and submitted for registration by Uncharted Music. The song exhorts listeners to “keep on believing in yourself, and it’s going to come true” and will be featured in an upcoming independent film, Manifest West.
Wild Horses of Arizona 2016 (VAu1472515 ) is an application for a group of unpublished photographs by Ann Marie DeMarco. She says she hopes her work would help “people learn to appreciate and be more protective of the wild horses of Arizona.”
What Drives You (TX9134472) by Ellen Yashinsky Chute is a literary work that describes “how family dynamics shape the people we become.” Chute is a social worker who focuses on trauma, social work ethics, and relationships. This is her first book.
Copyright is an important part of our nation’s creativity and innovation ecosystem and has been since the United States was founded. The Constitution provides Congress with the power to create copyright laws, and Congress acted on that power shortly after the Constitution was ratified. When Congress passed the first copyright law of 1790, it also recognized the importance of a systematic procedure for creating records of copyrightable works. In certain cases, works—which included maps, charts, and books only—were to be recorded with local districts and copies deposited with secretaries of state. This not only was the beginning of the nation’s public record of copyrightable works, but it was also a way to secure copyright protection for these works. The first work registered was the Philadelphia Spelling Book on June 9, 1790.
Today, the recording and depositing procedures have evolved into a centralized registration system at the U.S. Copyright Office, where copyright owners register a wide array of works representing the diverse creativity in the United States and throughout the world. While registration is no longer required to secure copyright protection, it continues to benefit both copyright owners and users by creating a robust public record of creativity. But that’s not the only benefit. Below are some of the additional registration benefits and reasons copyright owners should consider registering their works.
Registration provides an opportunity to enforce your copyright. Before an infringement suit may be filed in court, a registration or refusal is necessary for U.S. works. And before an infringement claim may be brought before the Copyright Claims Board (CCB), you must have an approved or pending registration.
Registration can be evidence of your copyright. Registration establishes evidence of the validity of the copyright and the facts stated in the certificate when registration is made before or within five years of publication.
Registration allows you to request certain monetary damages and fees. When registration is made before infringement or within three months after publication of a work, a copyright owner is eligible for statutory damages, attorneys’ fees, and costs.
Registration can help stop pirated copies of your work from entering the United States. A copyright owner of a registered work may establish a record with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for protection against the importation of infringing copies.
Registration can help potential licensees get in touch with you. When registering your work, you can provide the name and contact information for the person or organization that can permit others to use your work.
Some of our recent blog posts highlight creators and copyright owners who have registered works with the Office and received these benefits. These blog posts also represent both copyright beginnings and how the copyright system has expanded to include a wide variety of works and creators from diverse backgrounds. For example, “Pride in Literature: Inspiring Authors for Everyone” features LGBTQ+ literary authors who have registered works with the Office; “Find Your Way in Copyright” walks us through the evolution of one of the oldest types of copyrightable works, maps; “Three Ways Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex, Shows Us That Copyright Registration Is for Everyone” reminds us that registration and its benefits are available to creators of all ages; “Find Dance in Copyright” showcases the registration beginnings of choreographic works and how these works are protected today; and “Celebrating Women’s History Month: The Gee’s Bend Quilters and Copyright” tells the powerful story of how black women quilters from Gee’s Bend learned the importance of copyright protection and inspired others to create works and make registrations featuring their works.
The U.S. Copyright Office, through its strategic plan, seeks to expand access of the copyright system to everyone. Now that you know the benefits of registration and that a variety of creative works can be registered with the Office, what have you created that you will register?
If you need help, the Office has lots of resources available. You can start with our registration portal. There you will find helpful information about the various types of applications, fees, video tutorials, FAQs, and more. You can also check out our circulars for information on specific topics. If you would like to talk to someone about the process, please give us a call at (202) 707-3000 or 1-877-476-0778 (toll-free), or send us an email at [email protected].