What is copyright registration?
Copyright registration provides a means for copyright owners to secure evidence of their claim on that work. It is of particularly relevance for unpublished works, little known work, items published only on the Internet, or works still in development, where the true copyright owner may find it otherwise impossible to prove their prior ownership and defend their claim to the work.
Firstly, it should be noted that copyright is an automatic right under international law (please see our Copyright Basics page for an introduction to copyright). So it is important to make the distinction that state and commercial registration offices are not granting copyright in the same way that a patent or trademark may be granted, but rather providing a way to prove and defend your claim to copyright in the work, as well as speed up (or avoid) legal disputes and in some cases grant statutory damages in the event that your work is infringed.
Copyright registration achieves this quite simply. You submit a copy of the work you are seeking to protect to a trusted independent party who can act as witness to the date and content of the work that they will hold on your behalf.
In the event of an infringement of your work, if your initial claim/complaint is rejected or disputed, you can then call on the witnessing agent (registration office/company) to produce a copy of the work they are holding as evidence for you. This will demonstrate the exact content of your work as it existed at the point you deposited it, thus showing your prior claim on the work from that date.
Where to register copyright.
We have an affiliation with the services of Copyright Witness, whom we believe provide a very good service at an affordable price.
Their registration forms can be found here: https://www.copyrightwitness.com/register/
Money saving tips
Typically registration fees are per 'work' that is registered (e.g. a book, a film, etc.), but the classification of this is very loose.
If you are in a situation where you have a lot of small works that are part of a larger project; e.g. a book of poems, a number of songs for an album or project, a collection of photographs, a series of training manuals, etc. there should be no problem in submitting the whole project as a single 'work'; and so pay one registration fee for the collection, rather than paying for each individual item.
Copyright Witness provide an update facility that allows you to add a new version to an existing registration at a reduced price. This means that if the work you registered later changes, you can submit an 'update' rather than needing a new registrations.
This is a great feature as it keeps all the evidence for your work together and saves money too.
(see https://www.copyrightwitness.com/account/p17_registration_updates for details)
Online & digital
These days, everything is normally cheaper and faster online and copyright registration is no exception.
Even if you do not go down the online route, it is still normally cheaper if you submit digital files (e.g. photos, scanned documents, etc.) as these are quicker and easier for archivists to deal with and will tend to avoid extra processing fees.