Under US Copyright Law, authors are permitted to control certain aspects of the copyrightable works they create. Examples of “rights” granted under US Copyright Law include the right to publicly display, distribute copies and create derivative works, among others. Such rights include the ability to exclude others from doing the same.
The mechanism to control copyrightable works under US Copyright Law is injunctive relief and damages. That is, infringers can be sued to be forced to stop their infringing use and to pay damages.
Damages can include actual damages (i.e. lost sales), the profits made by the infringing party, statutory damages and attorneys fees. Statutory damages and attorneys fees are considered “special damages,” and are very effective in suing someone. The problem is, special damages aren’t available if you don’t register the copyright for your work in time.
Specifically, the law says that special damages are NOT AVAILABLE to copyright holders, unless:
- The copyrighted work is registered no more 3 months after the first publication of the work; or
- The copyrighted work is registered prior to the infringement.
Therefore, it’s absolutely critical you register your copyright ASAP, so that your registration is either completed within 3 months of publishing (which usually means, making it publicly available or selling it) or before someone infringes.