For Artists With Original Works, It's Buy Now or Pay Later By Matthew W. Clanton


For those in the entertainment industry, the Academy Awards provided somewhat of a respite from all the bad news lately. Now that the Oscars are over, it’s back to reality. The pressure to cut production costs for media works is larger than ever. One expense that should not be slashed, however, is the expense of registering a copyright in the work soon after it is created — whether that work is a written script, motion picture, a television episode, a commercial or a song. Considering that the standard Copyright Office filing fee for registration is between $35 (if filing electronically) and $45 (if filing the old fashion way on paper, which many still do), registration arguably provides a substantial dollar-to-dollar return on investment.

In this economic environment, is it really necessary to spend the time and money to register soon after a work is published? It’s a fair question. The U.S. Copyright Act of 1976 (as amended) does not require express registration to secure a copyright in a work. The simple act of fixing the work in any tangible medium of expression is all that is required. You can even use the “(c)” symbol without formally registering a copyright. But these statutory perks do little to protect the intrinsic value of the work itself.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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