Copyrights are created at the click of the shutter. But to enforce your rights in court for infringement claims, you must first register your copyright before you bring suit in federal court. Period. It doesn't matter when the infringement is committed or the registration is completed, you still must register before filing suit.
It's too bad that a freelance writer, Glynn Wilson, in Alabama didn't learn this lesson earlier. He recently sued Kitty Kelley alleging that she used without permission some of his material for her best-selling book about the Bush family, “The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty. " The validity of his claim will never be decided in court. He had to withdraw his copyright infringement suit after realizing that he was likely to lose because he had failed to register his copyright with the United States Copyright Office. http://www.nytimes.com/2005/03/19/arts/19kell.html
Stephen D. Henninger, Mr. Wilson's lawyer, said Mr. Wilson mistakenly believed that his copyright was protected because he had secured an International Standard Serial Number from the Library of Congress and had displayed the copyright symbol on his Internet site.
The misunderstanding of copyright law continues. Lawyers for Ms. Kelley said that the material had not been “copyrighted. " That is wrong. The copyright for authors is created when pen is put to paper or the words are typed on a computer. If Mr. Wilson wrote those words, he owned the copyright to them. However, since he apparently did not REGISTER the copyright to those words, he couldn't sue for the alleged infringement.
Lessons to be learned here:
1. While you own a copyright at the moment the work is created, you MUST register that copyright with the US Copyright Office before you can file suit.
2. Register your copyrights preferably before the work is published, but always before you file suit for infringement.
3. Hire an attorney who knows copyright law and can counsel you correctly on the requirements to prosecute or defend an infringement suit.
Copyright 2005 Carolyn E. Wright All Rights Reserved
- ABOUT THE AUTHOR -
Carolyn E. Wright, Esq. , has a unique legal practice aimed squarely at the needs of photographers. A pro photographer herself, Carolyn has the credentials and the experience to protect photographers. She’s represented clients in multimillion dollar litigations, but also has the desire to help new photographers just starting their careers. Carolyn graduated from Emory University School of Law with a Juris Doctor, and from Tennessee Tech Univ. with a Masters of Business Administration degree and a Bachelor of Science degree in music.
She wrote the book on photography law. “88 Secrets to the Law for Photographers, " by Carolyn and well-known professional photographer, Scott Bourne, is scheduled for fall 2005 release by Olympic Mountain School Press. Carolyn also is a columnist for PhotoFocus Magazine.
Carolyn specializes in wildlife photography and her legal website is http://www.photoattorney.com