A copyright grants the author of an original work the exclusive rights to its use, distribution, and reproduction for a set amount of time. Under the Berne Convention (which the United States joined in 1988), copyright is recognised by all 167 member countries of the United Nations. Copyright in these member countries is automatic upon the creation of the work. Registration with the copyright office is not required in order to be protected under copyright law.
Copyright infringement is the violation of copyright law. It is summed-up as “the act of reproducing, distributing, or making derivative works without permission”. Anyone discovered using work protected under copyright (without proper permission) is subject to litigation in civil court.
While registration of a copyright is not required, the calculation of damages for copyright infringement may be very different depending on whether you have registered a copyright or not. Registering your copyright may entitle you to seek statutory damages, while not registering your copyright will limit a claim to actual damages.
To register your copyright in the United States, contact the Copyright Office. The cost of the registration is $35.00. To register your copyright in Canada, contact the Canadian Intellectual Property Office. The cost of the registration is $50.00.