Should I register my copyright? Well, when you create a work, you automatically own the copyright–it’s unique to you. But when you go and register it with the United States Copyright Office, then you have certain protections.
Some of those protections mean that you can get statutory damages in court, instead of actual damages. This is a much better deal for you–here’s why.
What are statutory damages?
Statutory damages are when the law (or rather, statute) says, “If you break this rule, this is the specific amount of money you owe.” It’s like a fine.
A quick, non-legal example to illustrate:
Let’s say you buy a car, and you let your sister borrow it almost whenever she wants, but you write down a rule that says she can’t borrow it on Fridays. You also write that if she breaks that rule, she owes you $300.
That means on one particular Friday night when you’re planning to hop in the car but notice the conspicuously empty driveway, you’ll have $300 in statutory damages coming your way.
What are actual damages?
Actual damages are when you can prove, with definite and specific numbers, that you lost a particular sum of money due to an act of copyright infringement. In other words, someone took your content, and now you have a specific dollar amount of lost sales and/or lost licensing revenue.
If we go back to the car example to tie this together–even though it’s an imperfect metaphor–this would be like if you needed your car on Fridays because of your weekly piano gig at a local restaurant. Let’s say the restaurant paid you a flat fee of $150 per performance.
So if your sister were to take your car on a Friday, she would be liable for $150 of actual damages–money that you lost specifically because she broke the c’mon-don’t-take-my-car-on-Friday rule.
Why should I register my copyright?
If you register your blog posts with the US Copyright Office, you can claim statutory damages.
If someone willfully steals your content, and a court finds them guilty of willful infringement, those statutory damages awarded to you can range between $30,000 to $150,000 per registration, plus attorney’s fees.
But actual damages from copyright infringement can be hard to figure out. It’s not as clear-cut as the car example, especially if you’re getting money from affiliate marketing.
If you write a blog post, and then someone steals your blog post and sells the content as part of a course, how are you going to calculate out revenue that this cost you?
How would you know the number of people who would have come to your blog to read about solo travel (and potentially click on one of your affiliate links for a cute, functional suitcase), but instead stumbled on the content-thieving Solo Travel E-Course and bought that instead?
The numbers get pretty wiggly, and that doesn’t hold in a court of law. You could hire an attorney and still walk away with nothing.
So it’s far easier–emotionally and financially–to just register your work ahead of time.
P.S. If you’re wondering how to register a copyright, click here to read our post about it – How To Copyright Your Blog Posts.