Compendium of U.S. Copyright Practices, 3rd Edition

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203 Timing of Registration


203 Timing of Registration


Registration may be made at any time before the copyright has entered the public domain. See 17 U.S.C. §§ 302-305 and 408 (A). Generally speaking, a copyrighted work enters the public domain in the United States when “its full copyright term has expired.” Golan v. Holder, 565 U.S. 302, 307 (2012).


The U.S. Copyright Office strongly encourages copyright owners to submit their works for registration in a timely manner. As discussed in Section 202, a registration (or a refusal to register) is a prerequisite for filing a lawsuit for copyright infringement involving a United States work. See 17 U.S.C. § 411 (A). It is also a prerequisite for seeking statutory damages and attorney’s fees in an infringement action. To pursue these remedies, an unpublished work must be registered before the infringement occurs, while a published work must be registered within three months after publication or before the infringement occurs. See 17 U.S.C. § 412. Moreover, if the work is registered before or within five years after the work is first published, the registration constitutes prima facie evidence of the validity of the copyright and the facts stated in the certificate of registration.


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