Like trademarks, copyright registration is optional.As soon as a work is written or recorded or otherwise fixed, it is considered to be copyrighted. US law provides six exclusive rights to copyright owners, including the rights to reproduce the work, prepare derivative works and distribute copies.
Registration provides procedural benefits. Critically, registration is necessary in order to file a lawsuit for copyright infringement. It is also necessary to receive certain remedies, such as statutory damages and attorney fees. Registration provides a presumption of originality and ownership, and it allows US Customs to stop the importation of infringing or counterfeit works.
Businesses should include the "©" symbol or the word "Copyright" with all materials it distributes. They should also include the year of first publication, the name of the owner, and the language "All rights reserved."
Businesses should consider registering any important materials so that the option of filing lawsuits is available to address infringement.
Startups should also be careful to avoid using third-party photos, music, or writings on their website, marketing materials or products. Such use could lead to a potentially costly infringement dispute with the copyright holder.
Finally, because the author is the copyright owner by default, startups should take steps to ensure that they receive the rights to any copyrightable work performed by employees or third-party contractors. The Copyright Act lists specific requirements for works for hire, and employment and third-party contractor agreements should include specific language to address ownership of any copyrightable works.