Copyright Pre-Registration

by Goeun Son

You may have learned through the blog that you don’t have to register your work to obtain a copyright. But you are still encouraged to copyright your work before copyright infringement claim arises because copyright registration will get statutory damage and attorneys’ fees compensated.

Everything looks perfect once you register a copyright. But life is sometimes unpredictable. Let’s say you are working on a screenplay for a film to be shot. It is not complete yet, but you have been working with other staff to discuss the screenplay. And your work was leaked by one of staff, who copied your screenplay to upload it online. Now anyone can get access and read it. You would want to sue that person who made it available in public without your approval. But as you didn’t copyright the screenplay because your work is not done yet at that point, you will not be able to get statutory damage and attorneys’ fees.

To prevent this case, you are able to have another layer of protection called “copyright pre-registration”.

You may benefit by preregistering your work if:

you think it’s likely someone may infringe your work before it is released; and

you have started your work but have not finished it.

Be warned that preregistration is not a substitute for registration. Its purpose is to allow an infringement action to be brought before the authorized commercial distribution of a work and full registration thereof, and to make it possible, upon full registration, for the copyright owner to receive statutory damages and attorneys’ fees in an infringement action.

In order to preserve the legal benefits of preregistration, A person who has preregistered a work is required to register her work within one month after she becomes aware of infringement and no later than three months after first publication. If full registration is not made within the prescribed time period, a court must dismiss an action for copyright infringement that occurred before or within the first two months after first publication.

You may submit a work for preregistration only if it meets these three conditions:

  1. the work must be unpublished
  2. the work must be in the process of being prepared for commercial distribution in either physical or digital format, e.g., film copies, CDs, or computer programs to be sold online
  3. the work must be one of the following types:

Motion Pictures

Sound Recordings

Musical Compositions

Literary Works

Computer Programs

Advertising or Marketing Photographs

To preregister a work, you will be required to submit:

  1. an online application, which includes a certification of a reasonable expectation that the work will be commercially distributed and that the information given in the application is correct
  2. a nonrefundable $140 filing fee

 If you want to learn more about copyright preregistration, follow the link: https://www.copyright.gov/prereg/