4 Reasons to Register Your Software for Copyright Protection
May 20, 2010
Most people may not realize that there are 4 great reasons to register your software for copyright protection with the US Copyright Office. I recommend this for any company looking to work with a top venture capital firm or seeking growth venture capital. So here goes.
1) Easy. It can be done by yourself or with the help of an attorney. Your call, but any good lawyer will tell you to talk to a software copyright attorney before you file. In general though, it is not hard to file for copyright protection, so this is not an issue.
2) Inexpensive. The filing fee is low (less than $100) so that is not a barrier either.
3) Reimbursement of Attorney’s Fees. If you file a claim for infringement based on a registered copyright that existed before the infringement, federal copyright law provides that you could be reimbursed for your attorney’s fees. If you think about it, this is really a big deal, as it is extremely rare that plaintiffs in a case are reimbursed for their attorneys fees. This can be a double edged sword though, as if you lose you may be paying for the defendant’s attorney’s fees (i.e. something to definitely discuss with your lawyer before you file the case). To have a shot at being reimbursed for your attorney’s fees though, you need to file within 3 months of the work being published (if it is a published work). Talk to a software copyright attorney about it.
4) Award of Statutory Damages. What statutory damages provide is a fixed amount of damages awarded to you, without having to go through the difficult (and expensive) task of having to prove your actual damages. This is a big deal too, as proving your business harm of someone infringing your copyrights can be tricky and often difficult, so you have an alternate way of being compensated for the infringement. These damages can be as high as $30,000 per work, and up to $150,000 per work for willful infringement; these are set by a judge, who has some discretion here. To make a claim for statutory damages, you also need to file early (within 3 months for published works), so again talk to a software copyright attorney about the timing issues.
Any company developing a company exit strategy should consider filing for copyright protection of their software early, as it can make a real difference to their overall protection of their IP. I generally recommend this to the OpenView portfolio of expansion stage companies.
Here are some resources:
US Copyright Office: How to register for a copyright
4 Things to Remember About Copyright Law
Contracts vs Copyrights