Do you have to file a copyright to have legal protection?

| Nov 6, 2020 | Copyright Law

As an artist, musician, creative professional or someone who runs a business that produces creative content, you have an interest in protecting your original works. After all, if other people start using your creations, you may not be able to recoup what you have invested in the process of making them.

Whether you produce music, written content, graphic design or videos, your best option for monetizing your original work usually involves maintaining creative control and ownership. Copyright protections ensure that those who spend time making something interesting and new can control the use of their creation and potentially profit from it. Do you have to file paperwork with a federal office in order to receive copyright protection?

Publication, including release online, grants copyright protection

There are two separate kinds of copyright protection available for creatives working or releasing content and work in the United States. The most basic kind of copyright protection starts as soon as you publish or create a work. People sometimes mail manuscripts to themselves so that they could have proof of the finished work and the date of its completion.

These days, the internet makes it infinitely easier for you to prove when you finished and published something. Releasing it on your blog, uploading it to your website or sharing links to your work on social media are all modern examples of publishing an original work.

Once you have done so, you have theoretical copyright protection. However, if you wind up in a scenario where you need to enforce your copyright, you may need to formalize it by filing with the United States Copyright Office.

What do you do when someone violates your copyright?

Unfortunately, the digital publishing of creative works is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you receive the immediate benefit of copyright protections. On the other, making your work accessible online makes it infinitely easier for other people to steal it, distribute it as their own or otherwise attempt to profit off of your creative works.

When the time comes to enforce an existing copyright, filing with the United States Copyright Office is often the first step, followed by written communication with the party violating your copyright. Talking to an attorney about your concerns and your creations can set you on the path to protect your copyrighted works.