Bert P. Krages II
Attorney at Law | For more information, visit www.krages.com
I encourage clients to register their works themselves because it is a straightforward process that generally does not require much time or legal knowledge on the part of the registrant. The U.S. Copyright Office provides good instructions that can be found at the U.S. Copyright Office web site. The registration fee is generally $35. For clients who want help with applications for registrations, I can answer registration questions for less cost than the typical attorney-prepared registration.
Copyright registration offers substantial benefits in being able to enforce your copyrights. By registering works with the U.S. Copyright Office within either three months of first publication or before the infringement occurs, copyright owners are entitled to recover statutory damages and become eligible to recover attorney fees against infringers. Statutory damages are awarded by courts and do not require the copyright owner to prove any specific loss. Depending on the circumstances, courts typically award between $750 and $30,000 per infringed work but may award as low as $200 and as high as $150,000 in extreme cases. Ironically, having the ability to recover you attorney fees means that most infringement matters are resolved quickly without having to file a court action.
If you discover an infringement, you have several options to pursue a remedy. If you merely want the infringing use to stop, a simple cease and desist letter asking the infringer to cease using the work may suffice. If the infringement occurs on a Web site, you can also notify the hosting Internet service provider and ask that it remove the infringing material from its servers. Under the notice and takedown procedure of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), the service provider must promptly remove or block access to the allegedly infringing material if it wants to be exempt from monetary liability arising from the infringement. In most cases, service providers respond promptly. If you want to be compensated, you can always invoice the infringer and see if the invoice gets paid. Sometimes, it happens, and sometimes, it doesn’t. It is a fairly common practice to invoice unauthorized uses at three times the going rate and many professionals use higher multipliers as part of their standard business practices. If you have registered the copyrights, make sure to mention this in the invoice.
If self-help fails then it often makes sense to engage legal counsel, especially if the work is registered. Most cases of blatant infringement can be settled without having to file a lawsuit. The costs of using legal counsel will vary depending on the circumstances. Typical legal fees for sending a letter and negotiating a settlement may run a few hundred dollars. If a lawsuit is filed, the costs will go up significantly depending on the complexity of the matter. I make it a point to discuss strategy with clients and jointly decide on on a plan before moving forward with enforcement.
© 2006 Bert P. Krages II