Notes for US citizens

US copyright law

Historically, a copyright work had to be registered in the US to be protected in the US; this is no longer the case and under the Berne Convention international citizens enjoy the same copyright protection in the US as they do elsewhere.

There is however still a single stipulation that the US Copyright Office, which is run by the Library of Congress, makes in relation to US citizens. This appears in US Copyright Office document Circular 1 ‘Copyright Basics’ (source:http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ01.pdf - August 2011) and states “Before an infringement suit may be filed in court, registration is necessary for works of US Origin”. Because of this one statement we advise that US Citizens also consider registering with the US Copyright Office.

How does this affect you?

This rule applies to work created by US citizens or organisations and where an infringement suit is filed in the United States. It does not affect copyright owners outside the U.S, (even if they need to bring a legal case in the US), nor will it affect cases filed outside the US In fact, under the terms of international conventions, US law must treat works by non-US authors as though they were registered in the US

Can US citizens register with Copyright Witness?

Yes. The focus of our service and that of the US Copyright Office is not the same - the two may even be seen as complementary to some degree.

For historical reasons, registration in the US focuses on court proceedings within the US itself, while Copyright Witness ensures that you always have evidence available for any national or international legal case or dispute.

There are several benefits for US citizens who register with Copyright Witness, here are some considerations:

  • We can provide a copy of your work as evidence to support your claim in any international case.
  • Our response time to enquiries is very fast and this makes us more convenient to use outside the US
  • Unlike postal submissions to the US Copyright Office, our archive procedures include a backup service that ensures that we will always be able to provide a full and valid copy of your work, even if the original item you submitted becomes unreadable.
  • For an author with strong copyright evidence to file suit in court is fairly unusual, as with strong evidence behind you, most infringing parties would be very keen to reach a mutually amicable agreement and avoid legal costs.
  • Copyright Witness registrations are processed much quicker:

    Immediate cover is available via our online service, while postal applications are normally processed within 2 working days of receipt (see our service speed page).

    By contrast, the US Copyright Office states that you should hear after about 3-10 months if your submission is in order,(source:http://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-what.html - August 2011) and that other than an automatic email if you submit online they “do not provide a confirmation of receipt”.

    We feel that 3-10 months is a long time to wait to see if your submission was in order, and many US citizens find that registering with our service means that they can also be assured some intermediate protection whilst waiting for the US Copyright Office to process their application.