The Copyright Registration Fallacy

And whilst we’re on the subject of myths, here’s another one. I’ve just been told by a new games studio client that they’ve registered their copyright with the UK Copyright Registration Service. Anybody that’s been along to one of my IP presentations will have seen the rookie mistake already.

YOU CAN’T REGISTER COPYRIGHT.  

Not at all.  Not anywhere in Europe.  “Registering” copyright proves nothing in the UK other than that the particular expression supposedly registered was actually in existence at a particular time.  And even then, only if the court accepts that the copyright registration service you use is infallible in its administrative procedures.  It may have an official sounding name, but the UK Copyright Registration Service is NOT part of the UK Intellectual Property Office.

If you want to protect your copyright by starting enforcement action against somebody you believe to be infringing your work, your registration will do no more than show that you purportedly created a version of the work concerned by a particular date.  But it doesn’t show that you own the copyright in that work.  It doesn’t show that there even IS copyright in that work.

The only time I can conceive of a copyright registration service being of real use is if you have created your work independently and ‘registered’ before the publication of somebody else’s work, and that other person is now threatening you with infringement action.  Then, the copyright service may help show that you had created your work independently and independent creation is a complete defence.  But of course, that still requires the court to accept that the registration is administratively accurate.  The registration is not conclusive evidence of anything.

I don’t know how much it costs to register your copyright, but whatever it costs, think very carefully about whether there is any better way of spending that money.  It’s not that this is a con like those grubby sods that try to trick you with their false invoicing scams when you file a trade mark application, but it’s just not what you might think it is.

And don’t even get me started on the difficulty of pursuing copyright infringement in a software scenario these days…

 

 

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