Can you sue for copyright infringement without registration? In the vast and complex world of intellectual property, questions regarding the protection and enforcement of copyright often arise.

Most of the common perception is that a person can easily take a legal action when the work is registered. But the reality is quite different!

In this blog post, we will delve into the nuances of registration.

We will also look into its impact on the ability to sue for infringement, and the benefits and limitations of taking legal action without registration.

By understanding these key aspects, creators and owners can make informed decisions about protecting and enforcing their intellectual property rights.

Copyright Registration

Copyright registration is a formal process through which creators and copyright owners can register their works with the U.S. Copyright Office.

Although copyright protection is automatically granted upon the creation of an original work fixed in a tangible medium, registering the work provides several important benefits and legal advantages.

Here are some key aspects of registration:

Public Record

Registering a copyright establishes a public record of the claim, providing notice to the public of the work’s status and the owner’s identity.

This can help deter potential infringers and demonstrate the legitimacy of the claim.

Prerequisite for Infringement Lawsuits: In the United States, registration (or, in some cases, the mere act of applying for registration) is generally required before a copyright owner can initiate a lawsuit for infringement.

This requirement serves as an incentive for creators to register their works and ensures that there is a public record of claims.

Evidence of Ownership

A registration serves as prima facie evidence of the validity of the copyright and the facts stated in the registration certificate, such as the authorship and ownership, if the registration is made within five years of the work’s publication.

This can be helpful in proving ownership and the validity of the copyright in legal disputes.

Statutory Damages and Attorney’s Fees

Registering a copyright before or within three months of publication, or before an infringement occurs, allows the owner to seek statutory damages and attorney’s fees in infringement lawsuits.

Without registration, the owner may only be able to recover actual damages and profits, which can be more difficult and costly to prove.

International Protection

Although registration is not required for international protection under the Berne Convention.

Registering a work in the United States can provide benefits when enforcing copyright in other countries, as it establishes a public record and demonstrates the validity of the claim.

While protection is automatic upon creation, registration provides numerous legal advantages that can strengthen a creator’s ability to take legal action against infringers and protect their work from unauthorised use.

Further Reading: What is Piracy in Copyright

Exclusive Rights of Copyright Owners After Copyright Registration

Copyright registration with the U.S. Copyright Office does not grant additional exclusive rights to owners beyond those already provided by law.

However, it does strengthen the owner’s ability to enforce their exclusive rights and obtain legal remedies.

The exclusive rights granted to owners, which remain the same regardless of registration, include:

Reproduction

The right to reproduce the copyrighted work in copies or phonorecords. This right allows the owner to control how their work is duplicated and distributed.

Distribution

The right to distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work to the public by sale, rental, lease, or lending.

This right ensures that the owner can control the distribution and dissemination of their work.

Public Performance

The public performance of the copyrighted works will depend on the types of works. It can be literary, dramatic, musical etc.

This right enables the owner to control how their work is performed or displayed in public settings.

Public Display

The right to publicly display the copyrighted work, which applies to literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works, including still images from motion pictures and other audiovisual works.

This right allows the copyright owner to control how their work is exhibited in public spaces.

Creation of Derivative Works

The right to create adaptations or derivative works based on the copyrighted work.

This right ensures that the owner has control over any adaptations, translations, or modifications of their work.

While the exclusive rights of owners remain the same after registration, registration does provide several advantages when enforcing these rights:

Prerequisite for Infringement Lawsuits

Registration is generally required before initiating a lawsuit for infringement, making it a crucial step in enforcing a owner’s exclusive rights.

Evidence of Ownership

Registration serves as prima facie evidence of the validity of the copyright and the facts stated in the registration certificate if made within five years of publication.

This can be helpful in proving ownership and the validity of the copyright in legal disputes.

Further Reading: The Hidden Dangers of Piracy

Statutory Damages and Attorney’s Fees

Registering a copyright before or within three months of publication, or before an infringement occurs, allows the owner to seek statutory damages and attorney’s fees in infringement lawsuits, making it easier to enforce their exclusive rights and obtain compensation.

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In conclusion, registration does not grant additional exclusive rights to owners, but it does strengthen their ability to enforce those rights and obtain legal remedies.

By registering their work, owners can better protect their intellectual property and ensure that their exclusive rights are respected.

How to Register for Copyright?

Registering your work with the U.S. Copyright Office is a straightforward process that can be completed online or through a paper application.

Determine Eligibility

Make sure that your creation is protected by copyright.

Copyright protection is available for original works of authorship that have been permanently fixed in a physical medium.

The physical mediums can be books, music compositions, works of visual art, pictures, films, and software.

Choose the appropriate form

The U.S. Copyright Office provides various application forms based on the type of work you wish to register.

For most works, the online application through the electronic Office (eCO) system is the most efficient method. However, some works may require specific paper forms.

Create an eCO account

If you choose to register online, visit the eCO website (https://eco.copyright.gov/) and create an account.

The eCO system will guide you through the registration process and provide instructions for each step.

Complete the application

The application contains work, author and holders’ details.

To eliminate the risk of delays in the registration of the work, one should note that the information is accurate.

Pay the registration fee

For registration, there is a non-refundable charge.

This charge varies based on the kind of work and application process.

Online registration fees are generally lower than paper application fees.

The current fee schedule on the U.S. Copyright Office website:(https://www.copyright.gov/fees/).

Submit the deposit

Deposit is necessary for the copyright registration.

Deposit is nothing but the copy of the original work.

The deposit requirements vary depending on the type of work and its publication status.

For online registrations, you can upload a digital copy of the work directly through the eCO system.

For paper applications, you may need to mail the deposit to the Office.

Review and confirmation

After submitting your application, the U.S. Office will review it for completeness and accuracy.

If there are no issues with the application, the Office will issue a registration certificate confirming the registration of your work.

The above process will be quite long and hectic. It also depends on the office’s workload and process of application.


Keep in mind that although registration provides significant legal benefits, protection exists automatically upon the creation of an original work fixed in a tangible medium.

Registration is not required to secure protection but is necessary for enforcing your rights through legal action in the United States.

Can You Register Copyright After Infringement

Yes, you can register your copyright after an infringement has occurred.

Registering your work with the U.S. Copyright Office, even after an infringement, provides important legal benefits and strengthens your ability to enforce your rights.

However, there are some limitations and consequences of registering your copyright after an infringement has taken place:

Limited Remedies

If you register your copyright after an infringement occurs, you may be limited to seeking actual damages and profits in an infringement lawsuit.

You will not be eligible to seek statutory damages or attorney’s fees, which are generally available when registration is completed before the infringement or within three months of the work’s publication.

Prerequisite for Lawsuits

Although registration is still required before initiating a lawsuit for infringement, waiting until after an infringement has occurred may delay your ability to take legal action.

Registering promptly can help ensure that you are prepared to enforce your rights and protect your work.

Validity and Ownership

Registering your copyright after an infringement could make it more challenging.

It is challenging to establish the validity of your copyright and your ownership of the work in a legal dispute.

Registering your work within five years of publication provides prima facie evidence of the validity of the copyright and the facts stated in the registration certificate, which can be helpful in proving your case.

Consequences of Copyright Infringement without Registration

If an infringement occurs without the work being registered, the owner still has legal rights and protections.

However, the consequences and the ability to enforce those rights may be limited in comparison to cases where the work has been registered.

Here are some consequences and limitations of infringement without registration:

Inability to Sue

In the United States, registration is generally required before initiating a lawsuit for infringement.

It is also quite complicated to take a legal action against the infringer if the work is not registered.

Hence, registration is necessary to make the work look valid and pursue legal actions.

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Limited Legal Remedies

If the owner decides to register the work after the infringement occurs, they may only be able to recover actual damages .

This can also include profits in a lawsuit, rather than statutory damages and attorney’s fees.

Actual damages and profits can be more difficult and costly to prove, potentially resulting in lower compensation for the owner.

Burden of Proof

Without registration, the owner does not have the benefit of prima facie evidence of the validity of the copyright and the facts stated in the registration certificate.

This means that they may face a greater burden of proof in establishing the validity of their copyright and their ownership of the work in a legal dispute.

Infringers May Continue

Copyright infringement will certainly harm the rights of the owners.

If a owner is not able to take the right action for the infringement, this will encourage the infringers to continue with the activity.

Loss of Deterrent Effect

Registration serves as a public record of a copyright claim and can act as a deterrent to potential infringers.

Without registration, potential infringers may be less likely to consider the legal consequences of their actions, increasing the risk of infringement.

Further Reading: Civil Remedies for Infringement of Copyright

Process to Sue Someone without Copyright Registration

In the United States, registration is generally required before initiating a lawsuit for infringement.

Here are the important steps for the owners who are willing to take a legal action against the work that is not registered.

Register your Copyright

The first and the foremost step to take is the ‘Registration’.

In U.S., you can still apply for the registration process after the violation.

Follow the process outlined in a previous response to register your work.

Keep in mind that registering after the infringement has occurred may limit the legal remedies available to you.

Consult an Attorney

After registering your work, consult with an intellectual property attorney who specialises in copyright law.

A legal attorney with the years of experience will understand your problem and guide you to take the best action for your issue.

Gather Evidence

Collect evidence of the infringement, such as screenshots, photographs, or other documentation that shows the infringing use of your work.

Also, gather evidence supporting your ownership of the copyright, such as drafts, sketches, or any other material that demonstrates your authorship and the work’s development.

Send a Cease and Desist Letter

Before initiating a lawsuit, consider sending a cease and desist letter to the infringer, demanding that they stop using your work and potentially requesting compensation for the unauthorised use.

File a Lawsuit

If the infringer does not comply with the cease and desist letter or if you and your attorney believe that a lawsuit is the best course of action, you can file a complaint in federal court, as copyright law falls under federal jurisdiction.

The complaint will outline the details of the infringement and the damages you seek.

Discovery and Litigation

During the discovery phase of the lawsuit, both parties will exchange information and evidence relevant to the case.

This may include interrogatories, requests for documents, and depositions.

After the discovery phase, the case may proceed to trial, where both parties will present their arguments and evidence.

Alternatively, the parties may choose to settle the case out of court.

It is important to note that without a timely registration, you may be limited to seeking actual damages and profits in a lawsuit, rather than statutory damages and attorney’s fees.

Additionally, the burden of proof for establishing the validity of your copyright and your ownership of the work may be greater.

Despite these limitations, registering your work and consulting with an experienced attorney can help you protect and enforce your intellectual property rights.

Further Reading: Intellectual Property Infringement indemnification Clause

Can You Sue Someone without Copyright Registration

While considering the U.S registration, it is generally needed for the registration to sue the infringer.

Although protection is automatically granted when an original work is created and fixed in a tangible medium, registration with the U.S. Copyright Office provides several legal advantages and is a prerequisite for initiating a lawsuit.

If you have not registered your copyright and wish to sue someone for infringement, you will need to register your work first.

You can still register your work after the infringement has occurred, but there are some limitations:

Limited Legal Remedies

Registering your copyright after the infringement has occurred may limit the legal remedies available to you.

You may only be able to recover actual damages and profits in a lawsuit, rather than statutory damages and attorney’s fees, which are generally available when registration is completed before the infringement or within three months of the work’s publication.

Burden of Proof

Without registration, you do not have the benefit of prima facie evidence of the validity of the copyright and the facts stated in the registration certificate.

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This means that you may face a greater burden of proof in establishing the validity of your copyright and your ownership of the work in a legal dispute.

In summary, while you cannot sue someone for infringement without registering your copyright first, you can still register your work after the infringement has occurred and pursue legal action.

However, registering after the infringement has taken place may limit the legal remedies available to you and increase the burden of proof in a lawsuit.

To ensure the full protection and enforcement of your intellectual property rights, it is recommended to register your work promptly, ideally before any infringement occurs or within three months of publication.

Conclusion

In conclusion, while protection is automatically granted upon the creation and fixation of an original work in a tangible medium, registering your work with the U.S. Copyright Office is essential for enforcing your rights through litigation.

You generally cannot sue someone for infringement without registration, making it a crucial step for protecting your intellectual property.

Although it is possible to register your work after an infringement has occurred and still pursue legal action, there are significant limitations and consequences, such as the potential restriction to recovering actual damages and profits instead of statutory damages and attorney’s fees.

Additionally, the burden of proof for establishing the validity of your copyright and your ownership of the work may be greater without a timely registration.

To ensure the full protection and enforcement of your intellectual property rights, it is recommended to register your work promptly, ideally before any infringement occurs or within three months of publication.

By doing so, you will be better positioned to safeguard your creative endeavors and take appropriate legal action should an infringement arise.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is registration required for protection?

No, protection is automatically granted upon the creation and fixation of an original work in a tangible medium. However, registration is required to enforce your rights through litigation in the United States.

Can I sue for copyright infringement without registration?

In the United States, you generally cannot sue someone for infringement without first registering your work with the U.S. Copyright Office.

Can I register my work after an infringement has occurred?

Yes, you can register your work after an infringement has occurred. However, doing so may limit the legal remedies available to you in a lawsuit.

What are the legal remedies for copyright infringement if I register after the infringement occurs?

If you register your work after the infringement occurs, you may only be able to recover actual damages and profits in a lawsuit, rather than statutory damages and attorney’s fees.

How do I register my copyright?

You can register your copyright by submitting an application to the U.S. Copyright Office, either online through the electronic Copyright Office (eCO) system or by using a paper application form.

You will also need to pay a non-refundable fee and submit a deposit of the work.

Can I still send a cease and desist letter without registration?

Yes, you can send a cease and desist letter without registration, demanding that the infringer stop using your work and potentially requesting compensation for the unauthorised use.

However, you must register your work before initiating a lawsuit if the situation escalates.

How does registration affect the burden of proof in a lawsuit?

Registering your work provides prima facie evidence of the validity of the copyright and the facts stated in the registration certificate.

Without registration, you may face a greater burden of proof in establishing the validity of your copyright and your ownership of the work in a legal dispute.

What are the benefits of registering my work before an infringement occurs?

Registering your work before an infringement occurs or within three months of publication makes you eligible to seek statutory damages and attorney’s fees in a lawsuit, provides prima facie evidence of validity, and allows you to take legal action without delay.

How long does copyright registration take?

The processing time for registration varies depending on the workload of the U.S. Copyright Office and the method of application (online or paper).

It can take several months for the Copyright Office to issue a registration certificate.

Is copyright registration required in other countries?

Copyright registration requirements vary by country. Some countries do not require registration for legal enforcement, while others have their own registration systems.

It is essential to consult the copyright laws and regulations of the specific country in question to understand the requirements and procedures for registration and enforcement.