Wednesday, August 26, 2009

When Is The Best Time To File A Copyright Application?

Recently we were asked whether an author of a book-in-progress should file a copyright application to protect the book now or wait until the book is finished. In this situation it sounded like there isn't a big need to file the copyright application now because it is not a situation where there is a high likelihood of pre-publication piracy as there often is with sound recordings by popular recording artists or major motion pictures. If you are concerned about pre-publication piracy, then the scale tips in favor of registering the copyright in the unpublished version or using the Copyright Office’s “pre-registration” system. (Check the Copyright Office website for more info about the “pre-registration” procedure). On the other hand, given the relatively low filing fee for a copyright application ($35 if filed online), it might make the author “feel” better to know that the unpublished version has been registered for copyright purposes. But…….registering the preliminary unpublished version is no substitute for registering the copyright in the finished version when it is available. Thus doing it twice will increase the costs. But given the relatively low cost of the filing fee, that may not be much of an impediment. Another issue to consider in this kind of situation is whether there is enough original authorship in the work now to support a copyright application. If all you have is a one paragraph summary of what the book is going to be or just an outline, it is not clear that the Copyright Office would accept the copyright application. What is enough original authorship for copyright registration purposes is a difficult question to answer with any precision and is probably worth a blog entry all of its own.

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