The purpose of copyright registration is to place on record a verifiable account of the date and content of the work in question, so that in the event of a legal claim, or case of infringement or plagiarism, the copyright owner can produce a copy of the work from an official government source.
Before 1978, in the United States, federal copyright was generally secured by the act of publication with notice of copyright or by registration of an unpublished work. This has now been largely superseded by international conventions, principally the Berne Convention, which provide rights harmonized at an international level without a requirement for national registration. However, the U.S. still provides legal advantages for registering works of U.S. origin.
Requirement of registration
It is a common misconception to confuse copyright registration with the granting of copyright. Copyright in most countries today is automatic on "fixation" – it applies as soon as the work is fixed in some tangible medium. This standard is established internationally by the Berne Convention (1886), which most countries have signed onto since. Registration may be required by countries before joining Berne. For instance, the US required registration of copyrighted works before it signed onto the Berne Convention in 1989; at that point, registration was no longer required for works to be copyrighted in the US.
The observation that registration is not required in the United States, however, has been described as misleading.:86–87 This is partly because registration remains a prerequisite to filing an infringement suit,:87 and also because important remedies depend on prompt registration—such as attorneys fees and statutory damages.:90 At least one commentator has questioned whether the conditioning of legal recourse on registration is inconsistent with the United States' obligations under the Berne Convention regarding "formalities".:90 n.11
Scholarship on reinstating registration requirements
Some scholars and policy advocates (such as law professor and activist Lawrence Lessig and U.S. Representative Zoe Lofgren) have called for returning to a system of registration requirements and possibly other formalities such as copyright notice. The system of automatic copyright on fixation has been cited as one of the factors behind the growth of so-called "orphan works" in, for instance, the U.S. Copyright Office's 2006 report on orphan works. UC Berkeley's Law School held a conference in 2013 on the question of "Reform(aliz)ing Copyright for the Internet Age?", noting that
"Formalities, which in the past three decades have largely disappeared from American copyright law, may be about to stage a comeback. ... [R]ecent research on formalities suggests that we can get many of the benefits that formalities promise for a more efficient and focused copyright law, without the problems that led us to do away with them in the first place."
- In Canada, copyrighted works can be registered at the Canadian Intellectual Property Office for a fee.
- In Kenya, copyrighted works can be registered at the Kenya Copyrights Board for a small fee.
- In the United Kingdom, there is no official registration regime for copyrights. Commercial services provide a registration facility where copies of work can be lodged to establish legal evidence of a copyright claim. There are also requirements to file certain published works with the British Library and, on request, the five legal deposit libraries.
- In the United States, the United States Copyright Office accepts registrations. For works created in the US by US citizens, a registration is also required before an infringement suit may be filed in a US court. Furthermore, copyright holders cannot claim statutory damages or attorney's fees unless the work was registered prior to infringement, or within three months of publication.
Finding copyright registrations
All United States copyright registrations and renewals registered since 1978 have been published online at the Copyright Office website. Registrations and renewals prior to 1978 were published in semi-annual softcover Copyright Catalogs. For films from 1894 to 1969, inclusive, Library of Congress published hardcover Cumulative Copyright Catalogs, each covering ten or more years.
Please see the Copyright Catalog article for links to download digital copies of these pre-1978 US catalogs.
Requirements by country
|Country||Registration Agency (if any)||Copyright registration requirements|
|Albania||Albanian Author’s Right Office||Voluntary. Registration is acceptable in court as evidence of author's right.|
|Antigua and Barbuda||None||Not required. No voluntary procedure available.|
|Argentina||Ministry of Justice, Security, and Human Rights||Voluntary. Registration serves as presumption of authorship and date of creation.|
|Australia||None||Not required. No voluntary procedure available.|
|Belarus||National Center of Intellectual Property||Voluntary. May establish evidence of date of creation and a presumption of ownership.|
|Brazil||Various, depending on subject matter||Voluntary. Registration may help to provide evidence of authorship and which may aid in certifying precedence in the case of two similar works.|
|Canada||Canadian Intellectual Property Office||Voluntary. Registration is evidence of ownership in an infringement case.|
|China||National Copyright Administration||Voluntary. Recommended, especially for software.|
|Denmark||None||Not required. No voluntary procedure available.|
|Egypt||None||Not required. No voluntary procedure available.|
|Finland||None||Not required. No voluntary procedure available.|
|France||CopyrightDepot.com||Voluntary, may establish evidence of date of creation and a presumption of ownership.|
|Germany||None||Not required. No voluntary procedure available.|
|India||Copyright Office||Voluntary, establishes prima facie evidence of the facts contained on the registration certificate and may be used in court as proof of those facts.|
|Israel||None||Not required. No voluntary procedure available.|
|Italy||None||Not required. No voluntary procedure available.|
|Jamaica||None - The Intellectual Property Services Centre is a non-profit organization that provides private registration services and is recommended by the Jamaican Intellectual Property Office for that purpose||Not officially available, though voluntary registration through the Intellectual Property Services Centre provides rebuttable evidence of authorship and/or ownership. The Jamaican Intellectual Property Office officially recommends the practice of "poor man's copyright" to provide evidence of ownership and creation date.|
|Japan||Agency for Cultural Affairs||Voluntary, establishes presumption of facts contained in registration for use in court.|
|Kenya||Kenya Copyright Board||Voluntary, establishes prima facie evidence of the facts contained on the registration certificate and may be used in court as proof of those facts|
|Lithuania||None||Not required. No voluntary procedure available.|
|Malaysia||Intellectual Property Corporation of Malaysia (MyIPO)||Voluntary Notifications is to assist in providing prima facie evidence of ownership and evidence of date of creation. This may aid the copyright owner since the voluntary notification can be used in court as proof of the facts made.|
|Mexico||Instituto Nacional del Derecho de Autor||Voluntary, establishes prima facie evidence of ownership.|
|Portugal||Inspeção Geral das Atividades Culturais||Voluntary, offers refutable presumption of copyright and ownership.|
|Russian Federation||Rospatent||Voluntary registration available for computer programs and databases.|
|South Africa||Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC)||Voluntary registration available for cinematograph films. Establishes prima facie evidence of the facts contained on the registration certificate and may be used in court as proof of those facts.|
|Spain||Ministry of Culture||Voluntary, offers refutable presumption of copyright and ownership, but not required to file suit for infringement.|
|Sweden||None||Not required. No voluntary procedure available.|
|Turkey||Ministry of Culture||Required for cinematographic works and phonograms, voluntary for all other works. Registration may be used as evidence.|
|Ukraine||National Office of Intellectual Property||Voluntary.|
|United Kingdom||None||Not required. No voluntary procedure available.|
|United States of America||United States Copyright Office||Not required to obtain copyright protection, but required for domestic copyright owners to bring a suit for copyright infringement in federal court. Not required for a federal court's subject-matter jurisdiction, however, as established through the Supreme Court decision in Reed Elsevier, Inc. v. Muchnick. Registration establishes prima facie evidence of facts contained in registration certificate if made within five years of first publication. Copyright owners are precluded from collecting statutory damages and/or attorney's fees for any infringement occurring before registration. Foreign copyright owners are not required to register before suing for copyright infringement, but at least one court has held that they are subject to the same preclusion of statutory damages as domestic authors.|
- Copyright Basics (Circular 1) p.3.
- Thomas, Roger E.; Schechter, John R. (2003). Intellectual Property: The Law of Copyrights, Patents, and Trademarks. St. Paul, MN: Thomson/West. ISBN 0-314-06599-7.
- United States Copyright Office, Copyright Office's Report on Orphan Works (2006).
- "Reform(aliz)ing Copyright for the Internet Age?" Archived 2013-05-02 at the Wayback Machine, Berkeley School of Law, April 18–19, 2013, Claremont Hotel, Berkeley CA.
- "A Guide to Copyright". Retrieved 21 December 2013.
- "A Guide to Copyright in Kenya". Retrieved 19 May 2019.
- "Legal Deposits information from the British Library". Retrieved 5 June 2019.
- Copyright Basics (Circular 1) p.7.
- Copyright and the Public Domain page 11-10; Stephen Fishman - Law Journal Press (2008); ISBN 978-1-58852-151-4
- On Copyright and other rights related with it, Law No.9380 of 28.04.2005 (Albania)
- On Creation and Working of Albanian Author's Right Office, Decision No. 232 of 19.04.2006 (Albania)
- "Copyright Act, 2003 (Antigua and Barbuda)" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-11-20. Retrieved 2010-02-06.
- Argentina - Benefits of Registration (Spanish) Archived 2007-08-24 at the Wayback Machine
- How You Get Copyright, Australian Copyright Council
- Azevedo, Rodrigo. "Chap. 6: Brazil". In Silke von Lewinski (ed.). Copyright Throughout the World (December 2009 ed.).
- CIPO - Registration of Copyright
- Ganea, Peter. "Chap. 8: People's Republic of China". In Silke von Lewinski (ed.). Copyright Throughout the World (December 2009 ed.).
- Copyright, Act, 14/06/1995, No. 395 (Denmark)
- Makeen, Makeen. "Chap. 14: Egypt". In Silke von Lewinski (ed.). Copyright Throughout the World (December 2009 ed.).
- The Union of Finnish Writers − Tekijänoikeus (in Finnish)
- Sirinelli, Pierre. "Chap. 15: France". In Silke von Lewinski (ed.). Copyright Throughout the World (December 2009 ed.).
- Thum, Dorothy. "Chap. 16: Germany". In Silke von Lewinski (ed.). Copyright Throughout the World (December 2009 ed.).
- Anand, Pravin; Reddy, Prashant. "Chap. 19: India". In Silke von Lewinski (ed.). Copyright Throughout the World (December 2009 ed.).
- Greenman, Tony. "Chap. 20: Israel". In Silke von Lewinski (ed.). Copyright Throughout the World (December 2009 ed.).
- Auteri, Paolo. "Diritto di autore". In Giappichelli (ed.). Diritto industriale. Proprietà intellettuale e concorrenza (September 2016 ed.).
- JIPO - Copyright and Related Rights Archived 2010-02-03 at the Wayback Machine
- Ueno, Tatsuhiro. "Chap. 22: Japan". In Silke von Lewinski (ed.). Copyright Throughout the World (December 2009 ed.).
- Mizaras, Vytautas. "Chap. 24: Lithuania". In Silke von Lewinski (ed.). Copyright Throughout the World (December 2009 ed.).
- "Copyright Voluntary Notification – The Official Portal of Intellectual Property Corporation of Malaysia". The Official Portal of Intellectual Property Corporation of Malaysia – (MyIPO). 2017-07-20. Retrieved 2019-12-09.
- Schmidt, Luis. "Chap. 25: Mexico". In Silke von Lewinski (ed.). Copyright Throughout the World (December 2009 ed.).
- Leitão, Luís. "Chap. 14: Portugal". In Almedina (ed.). Direito de Autor (2011 ed.).
- Savelieva, Irina. "Chap. 30: Russian Federation". In Silke von Lewinski (ed.). Copyright Throughout the World (December 2009 ed.).
- "CIPC :: Registration Procedure". www.cipc.co.za. Retrieved 2019-12-05.
- Xalabarder, Raquel. "Chap. 35: Spain". In Silke von Lewinski (ed.). Copyright Throughout the World (December 2009 ed.).
- Cederlund, Karin; Axhamn, Johan. "Chap. 36: Sweden". In Silke von Lewinski (ed.). Copyright Throughout the World (December 2009 ed.).
- Nal, Temel. "Chap. 39: Turkey". In Silke von Lewinski (ed.). Copyright Throughout the World (December 2009 ed.).
- The Law on Copyright and Related Rights
- Best, Hubert. "Chap. 40: United Kingdom". In Silke von Lewinski (ed.). Copyright Throughout the World (December 2009 ed.).
- Elsevier, Inc. v. Muchnick Supreme Court Opinion
- "Trying to Curb "Drive-By Jurisdictional Rulings": Supreme Court Clarifies Purpose of Registration Requirement in Copyright Cases" Archived 2011-07-16 at the Wayback Machine by Moses Heyward
- 17 U.S.C. § 412
- Football Association Premier League Ltd. v. YouTube Inc., No. 07 Civ. 3582, (S.D.N.Y. July 3, 2009)
- "Copyright Basics (Circular 1)" (PDF). U.S. Copyright Office. July 2008.