How to Register Your Copyrighted Material With the US Copyright Office
I get asked ALL the time how and why you should file for copyright registration. Filing for registration is an important step in protecting your work from copyright infringement and is necessary if you ever need to enforce your ownership. Filing is relatively easy to do yourself, which is why I’m going through a step by step process as to how, why, and where you go through the process.
So What Is a Copyright?
Under U.S. law, specifically The Copyright Act of 1976 and Title U.S.C. 17, original works of authorship are protected, such as literary works, musical works, including any accompanying words, dramatic works, including any accompanying music, pantomimes and choreographic works, pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works, motion pictures and other audiovisual works, sound recordings, and architectural works.
This, of course, includes visual works such as photography.
Copyright protection exists the moment your work is created and fixed in a tangible form that can be seen either directly (in a physical form) or with the aid of a machine or device, such as a computer.
Why Should I Register the Copyright of My Items?
While you’re not required to register with the U.S. Copyright Office to receive copyright protection, you will have to register if you would like to pursue a lawsuit for infringement of your work.
If you register your work, you will receive a certificate of registration and public record that what you created is really and truly yours. Plus, if your work is ever infringed upon, you’ll likely have an easier time protecting it. Feels good, doesn’t it?
How to File Your Copyright Registration
In order to file for copyright registration, you’ll have to go to the Office of U.S. Copyright’s website registration page. From there you’re going to choose which form of work you’ll be trying to register; performing art, visual art, literary work, motion picture, photographs, or other digital content. The page will look like this:
Make sure to look over the requirements and information provided for the registration of your specific category of copyright. You’ll want to prepare your application with all the necessary components before beginning to file. Make sure you have a physical copy of any writing, photos, or other work.
Next, you’ll choose “register a …… work”, such as the one pictured below which will take you to the registration portal to begin filling out your “Form eCO” for registration.
Finally, you’ll need to complete all the steps of the form which will require you to know things like, the title and type of your work, a digital copy of your work, if the work is published or unpublished (if applicable), and your contact information. For each category of work, you can preview the application process in a PowerPoint document provided by the U.S. Copyright Office, these can be found under each category page and will help you understand further everything you need to file.
Additionally, there is a fee: $35 for single authors with regular claims and $55 for some special cases.
Besides the application online, you also have the option to mail physical copies. However, these copies will not be returned.
Be very patient while the U.S. Copyright Office processes your application. You can also check your status online if you’re feeling impatient. After your application has been processed, they will send you a certificate of copyright.
Where Do I Go From Here!?
If you feel overwhelmed, seek the help of a professional. I offer 15 minute free legal consultations and can talk to you about your copyright registration, or in the case of infringement, what the next steps in the process are. Schedule a legal consultation with me, and I’ll make the process easy, and painless for you.
Where Can I Go for More Information?
- The U.S. Copyright Office has some more great resources here:
- For additional questions related to your Copyright registration application, check out the U.S. Copyright Office FAQ page
- Preview of the Registration process for registering photographs