A piece of software may not be as emotionally affecting as a novel, painting or song, but it is also an original work that is entitled to copyright protection under federal law. With the commercial possibilities that new software might present, making sure that its author is the only one who can lay claim to it is very important.
Registering a copyright for software is fairly simple, though it takes a little while to process. You fill out an application with information such as the software’s title and when it was created, the name of the author and the name of the copyright owner.
Registering is not necessary in every case, but if you have decided to publish your software, it is probably valuable enough to you to register. Even if you do not intend to profit from it and expect only to use it yourself, a registered copyright can protect you from litigation from another developer claiming you infringed on his or her copyright.
If another party ever infringes on one of your pieces of software with a registered copyright, such as by copying, duplicating or altering it without permission, you have the right to sue. If you prevail, you will be entitled to compensation for your damages. You may also request that the defendant pay your attorney fees and court costs, and pay special damages of up to $150,000 per infringement -- even if you cannot prove actual damages.
Though you can register a copyright yourself, consulting with an intellectual property attorney first is still a good idea. And meeting with an IP attorney after someone infringes on your copyright can help you determine your best course of action.