While copyright in the United States automatically attaches upon the creation of an original work of authorship, registration with the Copyright Office puts a copyright holder in a better position if litigation arises over the copyright. A copyright holder desiring to register his or her copyright should do the following:
- Obtain and complete appropriate form (found here).
- Prepare clear rendition of material being submitted for copyright
- Send both documents to U.S. Copyright Office in Washington, D.C.
Note: An alternative to filling out a paper form, which holds a staggering 13 month processing time, you can submit your work through the Electronic Copyright Registration System (here), which has a slightly less staggering 8 month processing time.
Registration of copyright refers to the act of registering the work with the United States Copyright Office, which is an office of the Library of Congress. As the United States has joined the Berne Convention, registration is no longer necessary to provide copyright protection. However, registration is still necessary to obtain statutory damages in case of infringement.
Copyright Act § 407 provides that the owner of copyright in a published or unpublished work may, at any time during the copyright, register the work with the Copyright Office. The purpose of the registration provisions is to create as comprehensive a record of U.S. copyright claims as is possible. To register, the registrant must complete an application form and send it, along with the filing fee and copies of the work, to the Copyright Office.
The Copyright Office reviews applications for obvious errors or lack of copyrightable subject matter, and then issues a certificate of registration.
Registration as a prerequisite to claim of moral rights violation: it’s not necessary for any Author to register prior to bringing suit for violation of the rights of attribution or integrity in a work of visual art, pursuant to Copyright Act § 106A.
(above source: Library of Congress)
But so basically, once you write something, it’s already copyrighted. You can “officially” copyright it if you want, but it’s not totally necessary unless you need to file a lawsuit.
Other Methods of Copyright
Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard of someone mailing their original work to themselves and never opening the envelope? This is called ‘Poor-Mans Copyright’. Although nowadays emailing the file to yourself can accomplish the same thing as mailing. The reason this method is called ‘Poor-Mans Copyright’ is for the simple fact that the United States recognizes original works of authorship as ‘copyrighted’ as long as you can prove that you are, in fact, the original author. Therefore, mailing yourself (or emailing) the completed document establishes the date the work was created. So, if Sally wrote a song and mailed it to herself (because she couldn’t afford the $55 to submit her copyright to the Library of Congress) she has essentially established the date that she created it. A year later Joe gets his hands on the piece and claims that it is his. Sally can defend herself in court by showing the envelope that she never opened with her original piece that Joe stole.
But what happens after she opens that envelope ‘confirming’ her copyright?
One only reason for ‘copyrighting’ using this method is if you want to keep your work private for some reason and did not want to submit it to the Library of Congress. But that seems rare. You’re MUCH better off paying a few dollars and submitting your work to the Library of Congress.
We can do it for you
Does all of this seem a little too complicated? Shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will get you sorted out.