Does an author have to register a work with Copyright Office in Washington in order to have a copyright in his work?
Once a work is created in a fixed and tangible form, copyright ownership immediately vests in the creator of the work. Registration or publication of notice with the Copyright Office is not required. Further, use of a copyright symbol or similar notation is no longer required in order to claim copyright in an authored or created work. However, registration does become important if infringement occurs and the owner wishes to pursue legal remedies. Registration, particularly if done in a timely manner, creates a legal presumption of validity and allows an owner to recover a certain level of damages and fees. Further, registration can help defend against a claim of innocent infringement, which mitigates against an award of damages. It is important to remember that even if an owner registers his or her copyright in a work, the exemption of fair use still applies.
Aside from formal registration, another means that creators and authors can use to give notice of not only their status as owner of a work but also of their extension of permission to use their work is through a Creative Commons license. Copyright law, as written, creates an “all rights reserved” form of license. However, persons interested in the sharing of knowledge, the creation of new culture, and the encouragement of further scholarship can designate through a Creative Commons license commercial and/or non-commercial uses of their work that are permitted. There are a variety of free licenses that can be displayed. Creators and authors can determine, by answering a few simple questions, what license best applies to the permissions they want to grant. Use of Creative Commons is a great way of achieving balance within the current copyright system.