There is no need to file a copyright. Copyright protection exists from the moment the work is created. The copyright office defines this to be fixed in a tangible medium. I’m not positive the file saved on your computer is such, but if you print the file to paper it certainly is.
What registration does is provide important benefits including proof of ownership. If you just use a pen name, I guess you would have to have some proof the pen name is you. Copyright owners who register have additional remedies if their copyright is infringed, but again you’d need to have proof that the registrant is you, I’d think.
I don’t understand that last bit, about why to register. “Copyright protection is automatic”, but you can’t file suit against an infringement unless you have registered? What does the automatic “protection” consist of, if you can’t stop infringement of your work?
That’s just the way it is under U.S. law. Your original and creative work of expression is protected as soon as it is fixed in a perceivable medium. But a U.S. owner of a work can’t bring a claim in federal court without first registering the work.
It’s the compromise that Congress reached when the United States finally acceded to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works of 1886. The Berne Convention bars “formalities” for protection, but Congress wanted to maintain a registration system. So, the ability to sue as well as statutory damages and attorneys’ fees are the incentives for registration.
Note that non-U.S. persons may bring infringement claims in U.S. courts without registration.
The Circuits have historically disagreed on when copyright registration actually takes place for the purpose of litigation. The Eleventh, for instance, held that suing for statutory damages could only take place after the Copyright Office approved the application, while the Ninth held that applying for copyright registration was sufficient.
This year, the Supreme Court ruled that a certificate from the Copyright Office is necessary to begin litigation in most cases. However, they also noted that actual damages can be recovered for infringement that occurred before registration was complete.
What this means for writers–if you have not registered your copyright, you’ll have to do so before suing infringers for statutory damages. Since the process can take months–sometimes years–you should do that as soon as possible.
Remember that the statute of limitations for copyright infringement is only three years from when the claim accrues. There is, however, still some disagreement in the courts about whether the claim accrues upon commission or upon discovery.
This is not true under U.S. law. A U.S. copyright owner must have a registration hand before bringing a claim under the Copyright Act in a U.S. court.
Note that for many copyright owners, statutory damages and attorneys’ fees are really the only things that make a lawsuit worthwhile, so if you miss the five-year deadline for registration, you’ve lost something pretty important.
You are registering it with a government agency. Many, if not most, interactions with the government become public record. For instance, filing a FOIA request makes the filer subject to a FOIA request in turn. The purpose of the Freedom of Information Act (and state public records laws) is transparency in government.
Because using pseudonyms is a long-standing practice among private citizens who have engaged in that most subversive of activities, writing. Whether the authors wish to reveal their identities and open themselves up to retaliation or danger is up to them.
I don’t know what the argument is here. The Copyright Office does allow you to use a pseudonym. But the details of your application are public. That’s as should be. You’re claiming a public right, not a private one. And the main purpose of registration is to notify the public of who is claiming copyright interest in works. It’s a fair trade to exchange the right for disclosure.
If you are so dedicated to subversive anonymity you are free to forego the protection of copyright. You can’t have everything.
Yes, it is possible to copyright a work and maintain privacy. Yes, it involves lawyers. Ask an erotic literature authors’ forum for more information, and ask your local bar association for recommendations on a proper attorney.