How do you register your work with the U.S. Copyright Office?
Copyright protection is automatic. This means you do not need to register your work for it to be protected. However, there are several benefits to registering your work with the U.S. Copyright Office, including the opportunity to obtain statutory damages and attorneys’ fees in court.
Statutory damages are particularly important to copyright owners. They entitle successful plaintiffs to recover, instead of actual damages and profits, automatic damages that range from $200 to $150,000 per infringing work, depending on the extent of the infringement, the knowledge of the infringer and other factors. Actual damages can often be difficult and costly to prove and to calculate, so statutory damages are often a better option.
Creators may want to complete the registration application themselves, as the registration form is not particularly long or difficult and the Office has clear online instructions. After going through the registration process once or twice, it becomes much easier and faster to register any subsequent works. The Office also provides a tutorial, which can be found here. You can also find basic information about registering here.
Those who choose to register their copyrighted works with the U.S. Copyright Office themselves need to submit three items:
1- a completed application form;
2- a nonrefundable filing fee; and
3- at least one copy of the work(s) being registered.
Although you can register using the traditional paper forms, there are several benefits to registering online using Office’s online portal, which can be accessed here: https://www.copyright.gov/registration/. For instance:
• a lower filing fee ($35 for a single author who is also the sole claimant in a single work that is not made for hire, or $55 for all other online filings, compared to $85 for a paper filing);
• faster processing time;
• online status tracking;
• secure payment by credit or debit card, electronic check, or Copyright Office deposit account;
• the ability to upload certain categories of deposits directly into eCO as electronic files
It’s important to understand that you can still register online even if you intend to submit a hard-copy deposit simply by printing out a shipping slip to be attached to your work for delivery by the U.S. Postal Service.
Once you complete and submit your application to the Copyright Office you’re done. However, it is advisable to keep the Office up to date on any changes to your copyright registrations (including change of name or address), as you want to make it as easy for the Office to be able to reach you in case its examiner has any questions about the application.
Keep in mind that it takes many months for the Office to examine your work and get back to you. The process can also be as brief as three months. But a timeframe of 6 to 8 months is more realistic. And don’t be surprised if it takes as long as 9 to 10 months to be notified that your registration application has been approved.
For questions regarding the registration process or your application, call the Copyright Office Public Information Office at (202) 707-3000 or toll free at 1-877-476-0778.
If there are particular questions that we do not address in the FAQs or Copyright Law Explained sections on our website, please send us your question and we will try to respond with a post in our Ask the Alliance series.
The information provided by the Copyright Alliance in this blog post is intended to educate you about copyright law and policy. The Copyright Alliance is not a law firm. We do not provide legal advice and this blog post does not create or constitute an attorney-client relationship. Please see more here.