Photo Attorney

Sep 25, 2008

Q&A - When Is Your Copyright Registration Effective?

Q. I sent my images to the Copyright Office earlier this year. The mailing service confirmed delivery and my check for the registration has cleared. I've since found that one of the images has been infringed. Can I get proof from the Copyright Office that all of the images were received and registered properly? When is my copyright registration effective?

A. The Copyright Office is running behind on registrations, so it can take 8-9 months to receive your certificate from the Copyright Office if you registered using the "old-fashioned paper" way. [Note: The online registrations through eCO are taking only a few weeks.] You will not receive an acknowledgment that your application has been received because the Office receives more than 600,000 applications annually.

The Copyright Office will provide written information about the status of applications that have been in the Copyright Office less than 6 months for a fee. Contact the Certifications and Documents Section at (202) 707-6787 to get the process started. If you sent the registration more than 6 months ago, the Copyright Office will do an in-process search without charge to determine why the certificate has been delayed.

Nevertheless, a copyright registration is effective upon receipt by the Copyright Office. "A copyright registration is effective on the date that all the required elements (application, fee, and deposit) are received in acceptable form in the Copyright Office, regardless of the length of time it takes the Copyright Office to process the application and mail the certificate of registration."

You have three years to sue for copyright infringement. So you may wait until you get your registration certificate from the Copyright Office to seek damages for copyright infringement. Registering your images is the right step to take in protecting your work!