By George Howard
As we’ve discussed in numerous articles, when an author fixes an original work in a tangible form, he or she creates a copyright and is immediately granted six exclusive rights.
You don’t have to register the work with the Copyright Office to get these rights, you don’t have to mail yourself a copy, and you don’t have to send your song submission form into your PRO (ASCAP/BMI). All you have to do is write down or record an original work, and the copyright is yours.
So, why would you bother with the expense and time of registering your work?
The answer is, because if you don’t register your work, your rights and remedies with respect to your work are limited.
Specifically, unless you register your work, you cannot bring suit against someone who you believe has infringed upon any of your six rights. To be clear, this means that if you wake up one morning and hear a song you know you wrote being performed by someone else — someone you never granted permission to record/perform your work — and you have not registered your work, you cannot bring suit against the person you believe has stolen your work!
Additionally, unless you register your work you are not eligible to receive so-called statutory damages and attorney’s fees should you win a case against someone who has infringed upon your work.
Registering, within five years of publishing the work, also represents prima facie evidence in a case of infringement. This means that by registering you are assumed to be the author of the work, and the burden to show that you are not is on the person who has not registered the work.
Related to the above, registering sets a very specific date that can be used in cases when one party claims to have created a work prior to another party.
All of the above should compel you to register your works. You can do so online here.
We feel so strongly that you should register, that we'll choose one commenter [and/or person who answers the poll] at random and pay for the registration of the copyrights for one of their complete works (i.e. an entire record, not the individual songs]. All you have to do is leave a comment below.