Manhattan residents may be surprised to hear that they do not have to register a copyright in order to protect their intellectual property rights. Traditionally, creators had to register a copyright in order to provide protection against infringement, but now the law is explicit in that registration is not a condition to protection. Protection is now granted as soon as the author fixes their original work in a medium of expression.
Given this state of the law, writers, composers, visual artists and other creators may wonder whether there is any point to registering a copyright on their work. In fact, registration is still important. Though creators are theoretically protected under the law without registration, registration provides them with added benefits. The most important benefit is that it is not possible for one to sue for copyright infringement without first registering the copyright. In addition to this, if a copyright is registered, it becomes more difficult for the infringing party to claim that they didn't know that they were unlawfully copying someone else's work.
In order to receive statutory benefits in event of an infringement of the copyright, the copyright must be registered within the first three months of the first publication. Statutory damages are those that are fixed by law and are given to the injured party whether or not they can prove what damages they suffered as a result of the infringement.
Writers, artists and other creators don't go into their line of work because they relish the thought of an intellectual property dispute. Still, creators put a lot of hard work into creating something new and expect some tangible benefits as a result of their labor. When someone else tries to deprive them of these benefits by copying their work and claiming it as their own, the true creator may be able to find satisfaction in court. A registered copyright is the first step in the legal battle.
Source: SFWA.org, "The benefits of copyright registration," Ken Liu, Accessed on April 21, 2015