Copyright offers protection of original works of art — creative expressions that are fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyrights can be obtained for many types of works, including a computer software program, book manuscript, painting, a recorded or written piece of music, a photograph, or a movie. It is strongly recommended that published works of intellectual property be formally copyrighted, as it is the registered copyright itself that provides the best remedies against infringers. Registration provides you with statutory damages and you do not need to prove actual harm — just that the infringing activity took place.

Copyright protection is automatic. This means you do not need to register your work for it to be protected. However, there are several benefits to registering your work with the U.S. Copyright Office, including the opportunity to obtain statutory damages and attorneys’ fees in court.

Statutory damages are particularly important to copyright owners. They entitle successful plaintiffs to recover, instead of actual damages and profits, automatic damages that range from $200 to $150,000 per infringing work, depending on the extent of the infringement, the knowledge of the infringer, and other factors. Actual damages can often be difficult and costly to prove and to calculate, so statutory damages are often a better option.

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