Should I copyright my own work, or use an intellectual property attorney to help me?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Written by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer Jeffrey Johnson

UPDATED: Jul 14, 2021

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Remember that although works of authorship generally obtain copyright protection when they are fixed, in practice, you must still register your copyright with the U. S. Copyright Office to enforce your rights under the Copyright law, or to use the copyright to secure an obligation. Copyright registration is designed to be a simple process. In fact, it was originally the intent of the copyright office to make it so accessible that attorneys would not be needed in the registration process. With this in mind, it is very simple to fill out and file the form yourself.

Before making an appointment with an intellectual property attorney, review the form and determine whether you feel able to fill it out. Aside from the form, you will be required to pay a filing fee and submit two or more copies of your work. These copies are kept on file with the copyright office for future reference should anyone attempt to copy your work.

In addition, if you are planning on working with a specific agent or publisher, you will not need an attorney to obtain your copyright. If your work is finished before you sign on with an agent, fill out the standard form and submit it for protection. Then, when you negotiate with a publisher, they will instruct you on their terms, especially as to whether they require you to turn over the copyright and collect a sum up front, or if you keep your copyright and they keep a percentage of your profits.

There are some occasions when consulting a copyright attorney is a good idea, in order to protect yourself from copyright infringement. For instance, if your work was created by more than one author. If you think your work may have commercial value, it would make sense to protect that value. Discussing the many important Intellectual Property-related issues such as how to market the work, how to license the work without “giving it away,” and your rights in foreign countries could help you maximize your work’s value and help you avoid significant problems down the road.

Consulting an experienced intellectual property attorney with extensive experience early in the process is usually a wise investment. There are different types of copyright, so it is important to talk with a copyright lawyer as well as the copyright office to understand how to best protect your work. If you have already set up a specific business with a business attorney, you could also consult with that attorney as most business and corporate attorneys also file intellectual property paperwork for their clients.

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