The statute of limitations for copyright infringement is three years. However, there is an important three-month bar date that can be the death knell for some cases.
To be eligible for statutory damages and attorney fees under 17 USC §& 504 and 505 pursuant to 17 USC §412, you must register your creative work within three months from the date of publication.* Otherwise, you may only plead for actual damages and profits in all future cases. Depending on the type of creative work, actual damages and profits may be hard to prove, or may prove to be minimal.
Statutory damages range from $750 to $30,000 per work. Where willful infringement can be proven, statutory damages may be increased to up to $150,000 per work. As for attorney fees, even modest copyright litigation can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Loss of statutory damages and attorney fees can render a suit worthless.
This three-month bar date is limited to creative works that have been published. No statutory damages or attorneys fees are awarded for unpublished works, where the infringement commenced before the effective date of the registration. 17 USC § 412(1).
Please promptly inform your IP attorney if you intend to publish your creative work. The date of publication triggers the three-month period by which your work will need to be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. To avoid this IP pitfall, a best practice is to have a regular program for monitoring the publication of your creative works.
* Publication is defined as the distribution of copies of a work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending. The offering to distribute copies to a group of persons for purposes of further distribution, public performance, or public display, constitutes publication. A public performance or display of a work does not of itself constitute publication, i.e. the work being displayed in museum. See 17 USC § 101.