Copyright registration

The pre-1978 indices to the copyright records are available for public inspection at the Library of Congress.

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federal copyright was generally secured by the act of publication with notice of copyright or by registration of an unpublished work.[1] This has now been largely superseded by international conventions, principally the Berne Convention, which provide rights harmonized at an international level without a requirement for national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.[specify]

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.[2]:86–87 This is partly because registration remains a prerequisite to filing an infringement suit,[2]:87 and also because important remedies depend on prompt registration—such as attorneys fees and statutory damages.[2]: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".[2]:90 n.11