What is required to get copyright protection?

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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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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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You do not need to apply or register to get copyright protection. Actually, you receive copyright protection when you create the work. The instant you use your pencil, typewriter, or computer to produce something original, it is subject to copyright protection provided it is a copyrightable subject matter. However, registering your work with the Copyright Office expands your protections and oftentimes, this can be done without disclosing the entire work. Depositing a copy of your work with the U.S. Copyright Office within 90 days of creation also protects your work by providing a legal record of the creation date and allowing others to have notice of your ownership rights, solidifying your copyright protection. 

Although you are not required to register your copyright with the Copyright Office, you may want to put a copyright notice on your work. Doing so places others on notice that you consider the work your original creation, which is protected by copyright laws. A copyright notice contains the copyright symbol, which appears as: ©. The copyright symbol is followed by the year of publication. The year of publication can be either the year the work was actually completed or the year that is was distributed to the public. After the year, give the author’s name or company name of the copyright owner. An example of a completed copyright notice would be:  © 2011 Joe Somebody. In order for a copyright to be considered valid, the notice must be placed in an easily seen location within your published work. The most common places for copyright notice include: the title page of a book, the homepage of a website, or the cover of a CD.

While the courts do not require registration for copyright protection, it does ensure that should anyone ever violate your copyright, your claim will not be placed under scrutiny. There are three elements required in order to register your copyrighted work with the copyright office. 

  • First, you must fill out the copyright form. The form is available online. The copyright office offers applicants the option of applying by mail or through online filing. The registration form must be completely filled out or it will be rejected. 
  • Second, you must pay the non-refundable registration fee. This fee covers the cost of a copyright agent reviewing and filing your copyrighted work. The filing fee as of 2011 for registering a single work is $35. 
  • Third, you must submit a deposit of your work to the copyright office. In other words, you must send the copyright office a full and complete copy of your work. This copy will remain on file with the copyright office and can be accessed should your copyright claim ever be called into question.

If you need additional help with your copyright to ensure copyright protection, an attorney that specializes in copyright law can help. To locate a copyright attorney, visit your state bar association.

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