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No matter the medium of the art, copyright is granted to the artist the moment that art is completed. So why bother with the paperwork and expense of registering your art with the U.S. Copyright Office?

Are you serious about protecting your art? What will you do when someone rips off the song you wrote, or posts your artwork on a website without your consent. Are you going to send the infringer a nasty letter filled with legal rhetoric, a letter that has no teeth because to back up that rhetoric you need access to the courts, and to file a copyright infringement complaint in court you gotta have your art registered.

It's a zero sum game. When I tell clients this they often respond with "but I don't want money, I just want them to stop using my art."

It has been my experience that most letters sent claiming copyright infringement of unregistered art are ignored by infringers, although if the art has been posted online a letter sent to the website's ISP might succeed in getting it taken down. Having copyright registration for the art, and sending that registration with the letter dramatically increases the odds that the infringer will actually comply with the cease & desist.

So why not wait until someone steals your art, and then spend a little money for copyright registration? The answer is simple - without prior copyright registration you can't afford to sue an infringer in court. Even if you win your attorney fees will likely be greater than any money damages awarded, and the small money damages provide little deterrent to the infringer. This result is nothing but a Pyrrhic victory.

On the other hand, having prior copyright registration grants the copyright holder not only actual damages (dollar amounts often small), but also the opportunity for special damages up to $150,000, plus attorney fees. Now we're talking an actual victory for the copyright holder.
 
So now are you serious about protecting your art? Copyright registration is a real deterrent to would-be infringers. It's easy and inexpensive insurance.

 

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