An article in the Washington Post raised numerous issues concerning the new electronic copyright registration system. While the system definitely needs work, the belief that this problem is prohibiting people from marketing, publishing, or otherwise exploiting their creative ventures is misguided. Copyright protection is automatic from the time the work is fixed in a tangible medium. This means that once you create your work and put it in a fixed form (including computer files) your work is protected. While registration is necessary to enforce a copyright in court failing to register does not mean that people can openly copy or otherwise pirate your work without your permission. There are benefits to registering early, including statutory damages and attorneys’ fees awards. However, because copyright registrations backdates to the time it was registered (i.e., put in the hands of the copyright office) and not at the time of certificate issuance, the fear that the benefit of early registration will be lost because of the backlog is without merit.
We can hope that the online system will be updated soon. In the mean time it is important to bear in mind the benefits of registration, regardless of when you obtain the actual certificate.
Copyright attorney John E. Grant wrote extensively on this topic. If you would like to learn more, check his blog.