How do you protect what’s yours from those who would completely ignore copyright protection? This is a question the family of famed Beat generation icon Neal Cassady has asked itself, as illegally copied photographs of Neal float around the Internet and the world. One way to get greater protection is to register the copyright. Taking this extra step is the difference between being able to sue for infringement and having to sit there and take it.
Copyright protection is automatic — it attaches as soon as an “original work of authorship” is set out in a tangible medium of expression. 17 USC §102. The copyright owner automatically has the following exclusive rights (17 USC §106):
- The right to reproduce the work, and thus preclude others from copying the work without permission.
- The right to prepare derivative works based on the work.
- The right to distribute copies of the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending.
- The right to perform or display the work publicly.
By registering the copyright, the owner also gets some added advantages, the most significant of which it the right to sue for copyright infringement. 17 USC §411(a). Registration also means that the owner may be allowed to record the registration with the U.S. Customs Service for protection against the importation of infringing copies.
The Copyright Office has even made registering easier. Applicants for registration can use an online system, the Electronic Copyright Office (eCO), which is a faster, less expensive procedure that enables online status tracking and the ability to upload certain types of electronic files directly.
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