Copyright Registration - The 3 Month Rule - File Early, File Often

Curious about how the ‘three month rule’ for copyright registration applies to your specific legal matter? Contact Sturman Law today.

The failure to file for copyright registration prior to publishing your work or within three months of doing so can be a costly and disastrous mistake.

do i need to register my copyright?

If you want to protect your content in an efficient and cost effective manner, you should absolutely register your copyright.

  • Copyright registration is an additional step past the automatic copyright protection that an original work receives once it is fixed in a ‘tangible medium of expression'.

  • If you have any intentions of licensing your content, registering your copyright is a must.

  • Additionally, you cannot sue for copyright infringement unless the copyright has been registered.

When should i file for copyright registration?

The best thing a content creator can do, is to seek copyright registration the moment a work is created.

  • It is best not to wait longer than three months after you publish your content.

  • The two most valuable protections offered by copyright registration are only available in those first three months:

    • eligibility to be awarded statutory damages and attorneys fees in cases of copyright infringement.

NOTE: Do not neglect to file just because you are past the three month time frame. Copyright registration still provides valuable protection even after three months. 

Damages for copyright infringement

Damages are the harm that you or your business have incurred as a result of copyright infringement.

  • In a case of copyright infringement, a copyright owner can be awarded two types of damages, actual damages and statutory damages.

Actual Damages vs statutory damages

If you don't file for copyright registration within three months of publication, you can only be awarded actual damages.

  • This means you have to prove that the alleged copyright infringement resulted in lost sales or some other quantifiable harm.

  • In many cases there may not be any actual damages and even if there are, proving these damages can be costly and difficult to do.

If you are eligible because you filed within three months, a court can award statutory damages.

  • Statutory damages can be awarded even if you haven’t lost any profits or been financially harmed in any way.

Why are Statutory Damages so Valuable?

In some cases the cost of trying to prove actual damages may exceed the actual damages themselves.

  • Statutory damages allow a court to award a minimum of $750 up to $150,000 in cases of copyright infringement.

Attorney's Fees

If infringement is proven, and a copyright was registered prior to or within three months of publication, the copyright owner is eligible to be awarded attorney's fees.

  • The potential award of attorney fees makes any infringement action stronger from a strategic standpoint.

  • Copyright infringement cases can require significant legal costs totaling more than a statutory damages award.

Remember This...

Copyright registration is a must for any content creator.

  • How early and how often you file for copyright registration can make a tremendous difference in the strength of your case.

  • Filing for copyright registration prior to publishing a work or within three months of doing so puts you in a strong position to both prevent infringement and if eligible, be compensated for it.