Copyright FAQ: What Is Preregistration?

Certain classes of works, including films, songs, and books, are prone to copyright infringement even before they are released. To address this concern, preregistration is available in some cases.

In essence, copyright preregistration serves as a placeholder when a copyright owner needs to sue for infringement while a work is still being prepared for commercial release. As outlined by the U.S. Copyright Office, a work submitted for preregistration must meet three conditions:

1. The work must be unpublished.

2. The work must be in the process of being prepared for commercial distribution in either physical or digital format, e.g., film copies, CDs, computer programs to be sold online, and the applicant must have a reasonable expectation of this commercial distribution.

3. The work must fall within the following classes of works determined by the Register of Copyrights to have had a history of infringement prior to authorized commercial distribution: motion pictures; sound recordings; musical compositions; literary works being prepared for publication in book form; computer programs (which may include videogames); advertising or marketing photographs.

The Limitations of Copyright Preregistration

It is important to note that preregistration is not the same as registration; it is simply an indication of the intent to register a work once the work has been completed and/or published. As such, it has certain limitations.

For instance, preregistration does not constitute prima facie evidence of the validity of the copyright or of the facts stated in the application or preregistration record. In addition, preregistration does not create any presumption that the Copyright Office will ultimately register the work.

Requirements Once the Work Is Completed

Once the work has been completed, it must be registered as a published work. This must be done within one month after the copyright owner becomes aware of infringement and no later than three months after first publication.

If full registration is not made within the prescribed time period, a court will dismiss an action for copyright infringement that occurred before or within the first two months after first publication.

How Can I Help?

In many cases, it is advisable to consult with an experienced copyright attorney before seeking to preregister your work. To ensure your rights are protected, contact me today by phone or email.


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