Clearing Up Copyright

Filing for copyright registration is generally a relatively inexpensive and easy task if you follow the instructions. Published and unpublished works are filed separately. When you file registration for a published work, the copyright office requires you to provide the date of publication (or your best estimate).

The benefits of registration are great—especially if you file before any infringement takes place. If your lawsuit succeeds, you’ll be entitled to statutory damages up to $100,000 per infringement and to have your attorney’s fees paid. Without a copyright registration, it’s probably not economically feasible to file suit to protect your copyright, even when there’s no doubt about the infringement. You’d be entitled only to your damages and the infringer’s profits, which may not equal the cost of litigating the case.

Mark Gottsegen is an associate professor of art at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and chair of the American Society of Testing and Materials subcommittee on artist’s materials.

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