In a business, copyrightable works are created every day. Every letter that is generated, every web page, every instruction manual and procedure, marketing materials, scripts for training meetings, etc. – they are all potentially copyrightable works. To file for formal registration for all of those works, however, makes no business sense. The cost of tracking and registering every work is too high. Each company needs to establish guidelines and procedures for which works will be tracked and which will be registered.
Copyright rights are given to an author upon the creation of a creative work – with or without formal registration of the work. Examples of creative works entitled to copyright rights include sculptural works, written works, graphic and video works, computer code, architectural works, and many others. Authors should appropriately mark their created works with a copyright notice even if a formal registration is not made for that particular work. To enforce the copyright holder’s rights in court, the formal registration must be filed.
A rule of thumb to use for deciding which works to track and formally register relates to how widely the work will be distributed. For tracking, establish a list of materials that will be distributed to “‘X’ or more number of people”. If the work is one that will be distributed or shown to at least that many people, it should be tracked. Tracking will help not only to support a possible formal registration, but will also help for defensive uses of the record if the company is accused of improperly using someone else’s material.
Reserve formal registration for those works that are being tracked. The first question to ask relating to formal registration is, ‘Do you care if someone copies your work?’ If the answer is no, there is no need to file a formal registration. If the answer is yes, you should consider filing for formal registration on the copyright. Even if you never intend to actually follow through on a law suit against an infringer, filing an early copyright registration will increase the potential damages amount and provide a greater incentive for an infringer to settle a dispute without litigation. Having an early registration on your important creative works provides a greater threat value and a greater intrinsic value.
Once your company has been trained to file its own copyright applications, the process is relatively simple, the government filing fee for a copyright application is only about $30 and the registration is good for possibly 90 years into the future. This is well worth the investment in your company if there is a legitimate strategy and purpose behind the registrations. Contact Booth Udall Fuller today to learn how.