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Do I need to File an Official Copyright? Isn’t it Automatic?

Common Law copyright vs registered copyright  Under current copyright law, if you just create something, you own a copyright in that thing, whether it is a statue, a book, a poem, a photograph, a piece of furniture, or a painting.  To keep someone from copying your creation, you just have to file for a copyright ($45) and sue them for copyright infringement, assuming a cease and desist letter doesn’t work.  If you can prove you created it first, and they copied it, you can get an injunction and make them stop copying it.  That is a bit of a hollow victory after spending tens of thousands on a lawsuit, and it means that you will only enforce your copyright under these facts if it is a very important creation, like your company’s flagship product.

However, if you had filed for copyright within 90 days of publication of your creation, or before it was copied, you could stand to win an injunction, attorney fees, and the damages specified in the statute, which is so many dollars per copy that has been made.  Each loading of a web page is one act of copying.  What that possible outcome adds up to is a huge hammer held over the head of the copier.  If he loses he will lose big time, and you will be made whole.  He will go to his copyright attorney and learn that he will lose big time if he gets sued, and he will come crawling to you with hat in hand and offer some kind of reasonable settlement, including not copying your creation ever again.  That filing has given you tremendous leverage, and you can enforce your copyright without the lawsuit.