Can I publish my book in print form if I haven't formally registered for copyright?
Also, what would happen if I were to get into a legal dispute over my book and it wasn't formally protected by registration? Would I have to go to court and prove my work is mine? I have loads of evidence to prove it, but what if I can't? Would I have to pay legal fees? How much are fines in a case like that?
1 Answer from Attorneys
In general, any creative expression will be covered by copyright law automatically. Then you register the work with the US Copyright Office so to perfect your bundle of federal rights like the right to access the courts, the right to ask for statutory damages (sometimes the only damages worth bringing the case over), the right to attorney fees, etc.
There is no good reason to wait to file for registration. I'm not sure why you would ever have to prove that the work was yours. If you were accused of infringement the plaintiff will have to show that you had access to their work. If they can't then in most courts there is no chance that they can prevail. There are some courts that might have a different view of course.
If you need clarification or help with registration, I suggest that you consult with a lawyer in private and discuss your objectives in more detail. You can start by calling around to several for a free phone consultation, get some insights then pick the best fit to work with.
If you would like to discuss further over a free phone consult, feel free to contact me anytime that is convenient.
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DISCLAIMER: this is not intended to be specific legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. No attorney-client relationship is formed on the basis of this posting.