Photo Attorney

Dec 14, 2005

Timing Is Everything When It Comes To Registering Your Copyrights

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you understand the value of registering the copyrights to your photographs. The timing of when you register them is important, too!

When your photograph is infringed, you may make a claim for the actual profits earned by the infringer that are the direct result of the infringement. These can be difficult to prove but can be significant depending on the circumstance. One photographer recently settled for almost $300K for the profits earned by the infringer.

But if your timing for registration is good, you may elect to seek statutory damages instead of actual profits from the infringer. Statutory fees range from $750 to $30,000 per infringement [the range for the statutory fees is what the court believes is necessary to deter the infringer from future infringements], and up to $150,000 with attorney's fees if the infringement was willful or intentional. Usually, statutory fees amount to much more than actual profits and you don’t have to prove them.

What is "good" timing for registration? At a minimum, it is anytime before the infringement. Your registration is effective the day it is received by the US Copyright Office, so send your registration via a documented delivery method.

You also are eligible for statutory fees as long as you register your copyright within three months of publishing it. If your photo is infringed even one day after it is published but your registration reaches the US Copyright Office 3-months-minus-one-day later, you are covered. Basically, the three months is a grace period for us to get our ducks in a row.

Finally, if your photograph is infringed, you have not registered it, and it is more than three months since you published it, register it as soon as you can for two reasons. First, you must register your photo to file suit in court. Second, if one infringer found it to be worth stealing, another likely will, too!

Take my advice, get professional help.

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