How do I copyright my work if I can’t pay?

I don’t make enough money to cover the registration of my artwork. I know it is required to take people to court but how do I copyright my work if I can’t pay?Please don’t say copyright is free, it doesn’t exist anymore or at least it’s been taken down now. It’s not fair that you have to pay money just to register your works even though you automatically own your copyright.

Lorene on June 19, 2012

Hi Lorene. You are right, copyright is free, but it costs money to register that copyright. This was a concern of Congress when amending U.S. copyright law to comply with the Berne Convention. Article 5 of the Berne Convention stipulates that “ these rights shall not be subject to any formality”. But there is a cost to the U.S. Government to record copyrights so Congress made registration optional for a fee. In a lawsuit, without registration you can get actual damages, but only with registration can you optionally get statutory damages, which are often easier and often higher. So yes, copyright is free but registration is not. However, you can register a large number of works all for one fee of, currently, $35. So, for 100 artworks, that is $3.50 per artwork. All of this pales in comparison to the costs of a federal copyright lawsuit.

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