One of the most common questions I get is, “Why should I copyright? It’s too expensive to enforce anyway.” Well, I’m so glad you asked, because I’m about to give it to you straight.
BECAUSE IT’S YOUR CREATION! Short & sweet! But seriously, your creative nature is a gift. Not all of us can design a beautiful t-shirt, take the most warming photo, or create catchy tunes. The laws are in place for a reason, and you should be taking advantage of them.
One of the greatest benefits to having a registered copyright is that you’re able to sue infringers in federal court (I know this is a last resort; more on this another day). Furthermore, if you send a cease and desist letter before you have a registration or before you have filed, it’s likely that the infringer will not give much credibility to your letter, even though they should.
Now that you know why you should file your copyright, let’s get to why you should do it ASAP!
If a copyright holder registers their work within 3 months of publication or before it has been infringed upon, the copyright holder is entitled to STATUTORY DAMAGES! This is what you want. Why? Because otherwise, your recovery is limited to what you can prove as actual damages and lost profits from the infringement. This is often very hard to articulate. In essence, statutory damages are automatic.
So how much are the statutory damages? *It depends* (eye roll)
If the court determines that it was regular infringement, the damages range from $750-$30,000.
If the court determines that it was willful infringement, the damages can be up to $150,000.
The court can also reduce the statutory fees to $200 is the infringer was “not aware and had no reason to believe” it was infringing.
This is a pretty big range. However, if you file your copyright within 3 months of publication or before someone infringes, the court can also award you attorney fees if you’re successful in your case. You know -- those annoying fees you have to pay to your attorney for getting someone else to stop doing what they’re not supposed to be doing in the first place? Yeah, those fees! You have the chance to fight the infringers without going bankrupt!
If you’re still not convinced that you should file your copyright application, then you must not care about your hard work. Yes, it costs money to protect your creation, but that’s the cost of doing business. And it’s honestly that expensive – the application is only $55.