This quick checklist will cover the important points in preparing to register and exploit your copyrights.
Create and keep evidence of the date of creation of any copyrightable materials.
This can be good evidence should the registration be challenged, or when an infringing party claims independent creation.
Create and keep evidence of the date of publication of any copyrightable materials.
This can be good evidence to show access to the copyrighted materials in a copyright infringement lawsuit, and evidence should the registration be challenged.
Add a copyright notice to every copyrightable work, even though it is not required, particularly when distributing the work to anyone else.
This is not required, but can be useful as evidence of actual knowledge of infringement. The notice shouldn't go on everything; just the works that the author has a bona fide belief are eligible for copyright. This notice requires three elements: 1) The word "Copyright," the symbol (C), or the abbreviation "Copr.", 2) The year that the work was first published, and 3) The copyright holder's name.
Determine whether or not you are subject to the mandatory deposit requirement under U.S. copyright law.
See the U.S. Copyright Office's informational page, or my blog post that touches on the subject. (In the links below)
Gather the proper specimen to deposit with the copyright office.
This can be semi-complicated, depending on the nature of the copyrighted work. Consult an attorney to be sure. In the meantime, you can check out my blog post or the U.S. Copyright Office's various informational documents for the various types of works. (In the links below)
File your copyright registration as soon as possible.
An attorney can do this for you for a fee or you can do it yourself, provided that you know what you're doing. The process isn't 100% simple, but it's not particularly complicated, either. The main difficulties are in knowing what specimen to provide and deciding what type of registration is appropriate.
Keep watch for any infringement in the marketplace.
Regular reviews of Internet sources, trade publications and other places should be made. Infringing articles should be taken down as soon as they are noticed.
Consult an attorney should any infringement be found.
An attorney can assist with sending the proper takedown notifications for infringing works posted on the Internet, including social media sites. Additionally, an attorney can send a properly-worded cease and desist letter for both online and offline infringers. In cases where it may be beneficial to work with the infringer through a licensing agreement, the attorney may be helpful in negotiating and drafting the agreement.
Additional resources provided by the author
In addition to this guide, the US Copyright Office has numerous guides on www.copyright.gov.
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