Why Retain the Copyright Rights if You’re Not Going to Register?

Using RightsClick to make copyright part of your workflow.

Many, if not most, creators who work for clients typically retain the copyright rights in their work. Commercial photographers and illustrators, for instance, use standard written agreements affirming that they retain the rights to the images and then lay out the terms by which the client(s) may use the works. Naturally, some clients will insist, or try to insist, upon Work Made For Hire (WMFH) agreements, but many creators resist or even refuse these arrangements.

Yet, despite the fact that most creators make an effort to retain their copyright rights, they then effectively nullify that effort by failing to register the work with the U.S. Copyright Office. Because if a work is not timely registered (i.e., before an infringement is discovered), key remedies under the law are not available. A registration may be filed at any time during the copyright term of the work (i.e., the author’s life + 70 years), but often, creators don’t think about registration until after they’ve had a work misused at least once. By then, it’s too late to do much about that infringement. That’s why attorneys tell their clients “register early.”

Making Registration Part of the Process is Easy

Having talked to many creators—some with decades of experience, and others just starting out—it seems that when registration is treated as an afterthought, it looks costly and like a chore. For instance, after spending the time and energy to plan, execute, and deliver a photo project, copyright registration is then set aside while attention turns to the next gig. But many experienced professionals who incorporate registration into the workflow, and even build the fees into their budgets, find the process is not only easier, but invaluable because they have settled infringement claims for thousands of dollars.

Photographer/filmmaker Jenna Close writes:

I have had one instance where we settled for $4,000. It happened immediately after the infringer knew the photo they were using was registered. In another instance, a client of mine discovered a competitor using an image I had photographed. The client came to me asking for help, and because I had registered the image with the Copyright Office, they took it upon themselves to pursue the case through their attorney. In the end, we split the proceeds from the settlement, but what was even more valuable to me was how grateful the client was for my knowledge and professionalism in obtaining legal protection for the images they had hired me to create. They are still my client to this day.

RightsClick Makes Registration Even Easier

In addition to putting off registration, many creators find copyright law and the Copyright Office website confusing. We know! That’s one reason we built RightsClick. In the time it takes for an average coffee break, you can submit a registration application through RightsClick. You don’t need to know anything about copyright law, and if you make registration part of your production workflow, you don’t even have to wonder whether the work is “published” because it hasn’t left the studio yet!

Not only is registration through RightsClick fast and easy, but the system is also your copyright database—a searchable portfolio that enables you quickly locate the relevant legal information associated with any single work in the system.

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