I queried my attorney about copyright infringements some while ago and just came across the email response. It’s worth reading, understanding, and using for suitable action if you hope to protect your work from infringers. The directions are short and to the point:
“You can’t sue anyone for infringement (that means you cant enforce your rights in court) without a copyright registration from the US Copyright Office. That means that they are vitally important. And you cant get statutory damages or attorneys fees unless your registration was done before the commencement of the infringement. Otherwise, you are limited to NET profits of the infringer.”
The clear lesson here is that if it bothers you when companies here or abroad steal your artwork and use it for their own profit-making purposes without paying you anything at all, your real protection is having registered the copyright in your work before the possibility that it might be ripped off.
Of course, not everyone has the funds to register a copyright online each and every time they complete a new work of art. Most artists will cluster images together into collections. These might be called ‘the autumn collection’ or ‘the February collection’ or whatever, and they may include images that don’t look at all like each other. No matter. Any copyright registration, even a late one, is better than no copyright registration.
A word to the wise.