Interestingly enough, you do not actually need to have a copyright filed to have copyright protection. Works are protected by copyright laws when they are first created and there is a fixed copy or “phonorecord.” For example, a book would be a “copy” of a work and the audio book would be a “phonorecord” of that work. Generally, protection exists from the moment of creation by the author plus seventy (70) years after the author’s death for all works created on or after January 1, 1978. Registration can be made at anytime during the life of the work.
So why register your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office in the first place? The primary advantage to registering a copyright is that registration assists in protecting your work if someone infringes on it. For works that originate in the U.S., you generally cannot pursue litigation against an infringer if your work is not registered with the Copyright Office. Moreover, if registered within five (5) years of creation, the registration acts a prima facie evidence of the validity of the copyright.
Furthermore, if you registered you copyright within three (3) months of publication, or prior to infringement, you can receive up to $150,000 for the infringement and attorneys fees even if the economic harm you sustained is not quantifiable. If your work is not registered within the required time frame, only an award of actual damages and profits is available.
In addition, Copyright Registration allows the owner to record the work with the U.S. Customs Service (U.S.C.S.). This record allows for the U.S.C.S. to protect against infringing copies of your work entering the U.S.