As of Jan. 1, 1978, a work is automatically protected by copyright when it is created, or fixed in a copy or phonorecord for the first time. For this automatic copyright protection to exist, you do not even have to register with the U.S. Copyright Office or have your work published. For unpublished works, there must be tangible proof of when you created the expression or material and that it is yours.
Even with automatic copyright protection, anyone can contest the owner's rights. Internet plagiarism is common, and the web makes it easy for an individual to claim that they created a work, when in fact they did not. While copyright infringement online may be an act of ignorance, some copyright violators can be held accountable if they take credit for works that they did not create.
Copyright registration provides proof of the true copyright owner and the date on which the work was created.