As a Florida artist, composer, author, photographer, software developer, architect, etc., you know or should know that in order to protect your intellectual property from theft or unauthorized use by others, you must copyright your creations. The U.S. Copyright Office cautions, however, that in order to fully protect your creations, you must register your copyrights.
Whenever you have your painting, musical composition, book, photograph, computer program, architectural drawing, etc. in final, tangible form, it is automatically copyrighted and you can affix the copyright symbol to it. At that point you have put people on notice that your creation belongs to you and you alone and they must not copy, sell or distribute it without your permission.
For most people, your copyright symbol is sufficient to prevent them from infringing on your intellectual property rights. Others, however, are not so easily dissuaded. They may claim that they, rather than you, created the work. If you failed or neglected to register your copyright, you have no substantive proof that the creation is indeed yours.
When you register your copyright, you receive the following benefits:
- Your registration is part of the public record.
- Your registration certificate contains the date on which you registered your creation and also carries a unique registration number that you can affix to your creation.
- Your registration certificate is prima facie proof of your creation and ownership rights.
- Should you need to sue someone for copyright infringement, you generally can collect not only damages, but also attorney’s fees and court costs.
You must register your copyright within five years of the date on which you published it. In this case, “publishing” means the date on which you put your creation in final tangible form. It does not mean that, in the case of a book, poem, article, musical composition or other written creation, you actually published it for sale to the public.
While you should not take this information as legal advice, it can help you understand the copyright registration process and what to expect.