Establishing a copyright is actually a simple process. You don’t have to mail a sealed copy of your work back to yourself in order to have a copyright, as some people mistakenly believe. In fact, simply creating an original work gives you automatic protection. However, registering your copyright will give you greater protection if you have to sue someone for infringement.
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Definition of Copyright
A copyright is legal protection given to an original work, whether published or unpublished, that’s fixed in some tangible form. For example, written works like a novel or poetry, musical work such as songs, artistic works and even computer software can be protected by a copyright. This means that no one else can use your work without your permission, such as creating a derivative of it, performing the work publicly or selling copies of it.
Automatic Protection vs Registration
Copyright protection is granted automatically whenever you create your original work. For example, the moment you write a novel you have a copyright for that novel. However, registering your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office brings a number of advantages. First, if you want to sue someone for infringing on your copyright, you must have registered it with the Copyright Office first. This registration also gives you a public notice that you own your work.
Registering Your Copyright Online
Registering your work with the U.S. Copyright Office is a simple process that can be done online or through the mail. To file online, create an account with the electronic Copyright Office. Choose to start a new registration and fill out the questions for each step, such as adding a title and indicating the author. At the end, you’ll need to upload a copy of your work. The filing fee is $35 if it’s a single work with just one author.
Registering Your Copyright by Mail
If you’re registering your copyright by mail, download the appropriate form from the U.S. Copyright Office’s website. These forms are TX for literary works, PA for performing arts, VA for visual arts such as a painting, SR for sound recordings and SE for single serials. Mail in the application form with a copy of your work and a filing fee of $85.
As you can see, establishing a copyright is a very simple process. You’ll save money and time if you choose to register your copyright online rather than through the mail.