What is a Copyright? And do I need one?

First the good news – as an artist, you automatically own a copyright for every original work that you have put into a tangible medium (sorry, you can’t copyright your thoughts, ideas, themes, or tropes).

Your copyright gives you exclusive rights to your creation, which includes the right to reproduce, distribute and display that work, as well as the right to make derivative versions from the work. Basically – if anyone takes your work and tries to make money off it without your consent – you can take certain legal action.

So, if the Constitution automatically grants you copyright to your work – why would you pay money to register that copyright with the US Copyright Office? While a basic copyright is free and automatically granted, you cannot legally enforce your copyright until it is registered and then you are only eligible to receive actual damages (such as lost license fees or lost profits) in the event your copyright is infringed.

And while a registered copyright does cost money – currently $65 to register one published work or $85 to register 10 unpublished works – having the registration before an infringement commences allows you to recoup your choice of either actual damages or statutory damages, as well as attorney fees if your copyright is infringed. This ultimately gives you a lot more leverage in negotiating a financial settlement.

Think of the automatic copyright as trial software – it gives you access to SOME protections, but to really have the full protection of a copyright against infringement, you must have it registered.

Deciding which route is best for you and which specific pieces should be registered can be a daunting process. To learn more about the benefits and best-practices for registering a copyright, join Artonomo for access to exclusive content and register for a one-on-one Copyright consultation in our Artonomo Academy. Jason Aquilino, Esq., who specializes in all things licensing, copyright infringements, trademark registration, and contracts for creatives, will help walk you through the process and answer your questions.

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