Frequently Asked Questions

What is copyrightable?

In the most basic terms, a copyright subsists in an expression of original creativity. Only the actual expression can be copyrighted; ideas cannot be copyrighted.

Many familiar items are the subject of copyright, such as:

  • visual artworks, such as drawings, paintings, and photographs
  • physical artworks, such as sculptures and installations
  • books, articles and other written materials
  • music
  • films
  • computer software
  • video games

Is registration with the U.S. Copyright Office required to protect a copyright?

While registration is not required to have a common law copyright, it is required to be able to sue for copyright infringement in the United States. Copyright registration in the U.S. is not mandatory, rather it is voluntary, but there are many advanatages to doing so. First, as mentioned, you cannot sue for copyright infringement on a work unless it has been registered. This may seem counterintuitive, because copyright registration is not required, but it is required to even step into court to sue for infringement of the work.

What is the DMCA?

The DMCA is the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, a U.S. federal law which builds on the Copyright Act to address some of the problems with the infringement of intellectual property on the internet. The primary provisions of the DMCA are an anti-circumvention rule and the internet service provider (ISP) safe-harbor. The anti-circumvention rule covers the reverse engineering, or 'cracking', of encrypted systems.

What kinds of devices are used for filesharing?

In the early days of internet filesharing (circa 2001), filesharing programs were only available on desktop and laptop computers, primarily those running Windows operating systems. Now, more than ten years later, filesharing software is available for nearly every commercial hardware platform, such as:

  • Desktop and laptop computers
  • Network Attached Storage (NAS)
  • Standalone flash memory
  • Tablet devices
  • Mobile (cell) phones
  • Video game consoles
  • Internet-enabled TVs
  • Internet-enabled media delivery devices

When should a copyright be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office?

Ideally, you should register your copyright on the day that the work is published anywhere in the world, e.g. the date of first publication. The best approach is to work with your lawyer to get the application together and ready for submission on your planned publication date.

At the most, you should register your copyright within ninety days of the first publication. 

What is a "work-for-hire"?

The work-for-hire doctrine dictates the authorship of a work for the purposes of copyright, when the work is made by one person or a company for another. This is an important nuance in copyright law and warrants a consultation with your attorney when entering into any arrangement where a work is created for another. By default, the author of a work owns the copyright in the work. If the work is a work-for-hire, then the owner of the copyright in the work is the person or company who employed or commissioned the author (e.g., artist, etc.) to create the work.

Do I have to register my copyright if I have submitted a pre-registration to the U.S. Copyright Office?

Yes, normal registration upon or after publication is necessary even if you have pre-registered your copyright. A work can only be registered once it has been published, and conversely, a work that has already been published cannot be pre-registered. A valid pre-registration does not automatically become the registration for the work once it is published, so it is necessary to obtain the registration to continue to protect your work after publication.

Disclaimers: is attorney advertising and conveys general information only. The information contained on this website is not formal legal advice or opinion. This website is not an offer to represent you, and your use of this website does not create an attorney-client relationship. Communications sent through this website, by e-mail or through other means do not create an attorney-client relationship. Information on the website may be out-of-date or inaccurate.

The Terms of UsePrivacy Policy, and state law disclaimers for attorney advertising can be found in the Legal Notices section.

Boden Davidson, Esq. is an independent, solo practitioner.