A copyright application can be filed at any time, even years after the initial publication of a work, and still be eligible for a copyright registration. This does not, however, mean that you should delay filing your copyright registration. Failure, and even undue delay, to register a U.S. copyright can have severe unforeseen consequences. For example, if infringement occurs before registration is filed, the copyright owner will be prohibited from bringing suit to stop the infringement until the copyright owner registers the copyright. And even if the copyright thereafter registers the copyright so that an infringement lawsuit can be brought, the copyright owner will not permitted to receive statutory damages or the recovery of attorneys fees.
The statutory damages and attorney's fee benefits that comes from promptly registering a copyright in advance of infringement are so great, and the cost of registering a copyright is so minimal, that it is wise to promptly register your copyright.
Many people successfully file copyright registration applications on their own without the assistance of counsel. However, some authors find it convenient to pay someone else to do it for them, simply to avoid the paperwork. Although the process is simple and appears straightforward, we strongly recommend you seek the assistance of counsel to file your first copyright registration. If this is beyond your financial capacity, at least employ an attorney to review your completed application.
Additionally, if your work involves computer software you have additional reasons for seeking the assistance of counsel, as a simple error can result in the loss of trade secret rights, or, in extreme cases, the loss of all copyright right protection. There are steps which may be taken when filing a copyright registration application for software which can preserve trade secrets contained in the software. Moreover, since most software is produced in versions, with each version based in part on previous versions, there are certain disclosures that, under certain circumstances, must be made in the subsequent registration applications to acknowledge the older content. Failure to make such disclosures can result in the loss of all your copyright rights.