How to Copyright

So you are wondering how to copyright.

According to the U.S. Copyright Office, a copyright is a form of intellectual property law that extends protection to authors who create original expressions in the artistic, dramatic, literary, and musical realms.  This may include creations such as architecture, software, movies, books, poetry, and songs.

What Does a Copyright Protect?

As a creator of any original work of authorship, you have the opportunity of protecting the work with a copyright. Although publication of an original work of authorship remains very important, it may also prove to be extremely beneficial to copyright the work as well.

A copyright covers such works as books, computer programs, web pages, musical works, artistic works, photographs, maps, sound recordings, databases, films, videos and broadcasts. If in doubt, visit the U.S. Copyright Office’s website, at www.copyright.gov , for more information regarding how to copyright your particular works of creation.

Although registration for a copyright is on a voluntary basis, it is necessary should you need to bring a lawsuit against another individual for copyright infringement.

Steps on How to Copyright

Once you have considered your options regarding your original work of authorship and have decided upon copyright registration, here is how to copyright your creations:

  • The first step is to submit an application for your copyright. The United States Copyright Office makes this process fairly simple by providing an online application form, found at www.copyright.gov .

  • Along with your copyright registration you will need to pay the fee, which is $35 when applying online. Otherwise, a paper application costs $45.

  • You will also need to send a hard copy of your original work along with your registration. The U.S. Copyright Office does not accept electronic forms of your original work; instead, you must send the “best edition” of your work to the U.S. Copyright Office. The work is non-returnable.

It is important to remember that because of strict security measures adhered to by the U.S. Copyright Office, you will need to send your work in a box instead of in an envelope.

  • The registration process may take up to five months if you have applied online; expect up to one year if you apply with a paper application. The registration process for copyrighted material varies from case to case, depending on the type and amount of material to be copyrighted.
  • You can publish your work without waiting for the publication through the U.S. Copyright Office. Instead, you can simply use the date of submission for your copyright should you need to bring a lawsuit against another individual regarding your copyrighted material.

  • If you make any substantial changes to your work, you will need to re-register it with the U.S. Copyright Office. Small changes and revisions, however, do not require that you re-submit another copyright registration application. In other words, if you change your novel to include another chapter, you will need to re-register; however, if you simply make editorial changes, you will likely not need to re-apply.

With a full understanding of how to copyright, you can now take the needed steps to fully protect your original works.