Copyrights do not apply to ideas alone, they apply to the original expression of ideas. A person who creates an original work has a copyright in that work. A copyright gives the owner the exclusive right to the reproduction of that work. This right includes the exclusive right to make physical copies of the work, whether written in a book, painted on a canvas, acted out in a play, or any other form or reproduction.
Benefit to Society of Copyright Protection
Without copyright laws, creators may fear that sharing their works will lead to unlimited, unpunished plagiarism of their works. Many creators create because it is their passion, it excites them. Few want others to take credit for their work.
Copyright laws provide the protection necessary to quash many of the fears creators have of plagiarism and encourage creators to share their original expressive works.
Is it Necessary to Register a Copyright?
A copyright does not need to be registered. However, registering a copyright may make it easier for you to later prove ownership of the copyright. Proving ownership of the copyright is a necessary part of proving infringement on a copyright and bringing consequences against an infringer.
If a plaintiff in a copyright infringement action submits a certificate of registration of a copyright that person is presumed to be the valid owner of the copyright and the facts contained in the certificate of registration are presumed to be true. The defendant would have the burden of proving the copyright is invalid or a fact contained in the certificate is untrue.
Additionally, in calculating damages, a plaintiff is always entitled to actual damages in addition to the defendant’s profit from the infringement. However, if the plaintiff registered the copyrighted work with the Copyright Office prior to the infringement, the plaintiff can choose, if he or she wishes, to elect instead to be awarded damages allowed by statute.
The purposes of the statutory damages are to relieve copyright owners from having to prove actual damages and defendant’s profits from infringement, to provide adequate compensation to the copyright owner and remove benefits of infringing, to deter infringement by the infringer and others, and sometimes to punish the infringer.
Copyrights Do Not Have to be Registered, but They Should Be
Clearly then, simply because the law does not require a copyright to be registered in order to be valid, there are great benefits to registering a copyright. Registration is not a difficult process and may save time and expense in the future.