Filing a copyright is relatively easy if you know what you are doing. Registration is accessible online via the United States Copyright Office (www.copyright.gov), and currently (as of February 2012) the online filing fee is $35.00 USD for most works. To start, one of the main reasons an Artist files a copyright is proof of the time of creation of the work. Once registered in Washington, a heavy burden is placed on an opposing party to disprove your time of creation. A second reason is federal remedies. This means if someone copies your work, in a successful copyright infringement lawsuit, a prevailing party can receive an assortment of remedies under the copyright laws, such as lost profits, destruction of infringing materials, and most powerfully, statutory damages which can be up to $150,000.00 per infringement. For an introductory level discussion on this matter, there are two primary ways you can register: as a bulk compilation or as an individual work of art. There are benefits and limitations to both types of filings.
Imagine you are a band that has recorded 10 new songs, or an artist who has painted 10 new paintings. The copyright office allows you to “bulk-file” as a compilation all 10 of these new works of art in one filing, paying a onetime $35.00 fee (if it meets with the right criteria). The benefit of this registration is that it is cheaper than individually filing each song or painting for $35.00 each, while still providing copyright protection on the federal level. The bad news is, you can only receive a remedy based on 1 copyright registration and not 10. i.e., this means your potential statutory damages are $150,000.00 and not $1,500,000.00. This is the trade off. While cheaper, you receive less protection and bargaining power if someone violates your copyright by filing in bulk. Compared to individual registrations, the opposite is true. It will cost $350.00 (and a few hours cumulatively) to register each track individually online, but in the event of a copyright infringement down the road, you could bring a copyright infringement action with 10 counts and be afforded greater relief in the event of a legal victory.
A second major consideration to understand is the concept of ownership. When you fill out the registration form on each of these filings, you must specify every author of the work and what percentage of the work they own. For a bulk compilation filing, the percentages of ownership must be equal for every work filed. This is not a big deal for the painter who has painted 10 works all by him or herself, but this becomes a significant legal issue for the band where every band member has contributed a different percentage of compositional arrangement work for each of the 10 songs recorded. If the band cannot agree on a single set percentage across the board for the ownership percentages of all their songs, the band will be forced to register each song individually, thus being a greater significant upfront cost.
In the end, any type of registration will give increased protection to your work of art, but it is important to think about how much is that protection worth to you when deciding what type of copyright to file.
Bradley Legal Group, P.A. are Intellectual Property lawyers, Entertainment lawyers and Music lawyers servicing clients in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, Orlando, and Nashville. We also affiliate with entertainment lawyers licensed in New York and Washington, D.C. © 2012 Bradley Legal Group, P.A.