Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Copyright Center

Registration is not required for a creator to own copyright to their works.

Benefits of registering:

  • registration creates a public record of your ownership
    • in infringement cases, the copyright owner has the burden to prove that they are the owner of the infringed upon work; having a public record provides evidence of ownership.
    • in cases where copyright ownership is challenged, having a public record establishes prima facie evidence, meaning that the copyright owner is presumed to be whoever is listed on the public record
  • registration is required to file a lawsuit
    • if you ever have need to file a lawsuit for copyright infringement, you cannot do so until the Copyright Office issues a registration
    • registration provides extra credibility when serving a cease-and-desist order
    • a copyright owner who can file an immediate lawsuit is in a stronger position than one who has to wait several months for registration
  • eligibility for statutory damages, attorney fees, and costs of suit
    • unregistered copyrights are not eligible for damages, fees, and costs

 

References:

Why Register my Copyrights?

Who can file?

  • the creator of the work
    • includes the employer if the work is made for hire
  • the copyright claimant
    • the creator of the work, OR
    • a party who has obtained ownership of all of the creator's rights
  • an owner of exclusive rights
    • someone who obtains ownership of one or more of the exclusive rights in the bundle of rights
  • an attorney or agent
    • must be authorized by the creator to do so

If you are unable to complete a registration on your own based on the complexity of your work, you may need to consult a lawyer or the Copyright Center Coordinator.

What do you need to file?

  • a completed application form
  • a nonrefundable filing fee
  • deposit of a copy or copies of the work

How long does it take to get certification of registration?

Processing time depends on the application method (online versus print) and the backlog at the Copyright Office. In general, processing can take a few months.

Registration is effective on the date that the Copyright Office receives all required elements of the application, meaning that the certificate of registration will often have a retroactive date.

What application information is public?

Anyone can view copyright registration records. Regulations mandate the collection of some personally identifiable information; other information is optional. Categories of information that are made available online include the type of work, registration number, title of the work, author, authorship, claimant, claimant address, birth year, preexisting material, date of creation, date of publication, and rights and permissions information. 

For detailed information about privacy and these public records, see Circular 18.

 

References:

Seiter B. & Seiter, E. (2012). The creative artist's legal guide: Copyright, trademark, and contracts in film and digital media production. New Haven: Yale University Press.

U.S. Copyright Office

Online

The quickest and cheapest way to register is through the electronic form located at the Copyright Registration website. This method is available even to those who must submit a physical deposit copy of their work. For a visual walkthrough of how to register with the online form, see the guide completed by the Copyright Office or this step by step video.

Advantages:

  • least expensive processing fee
  • fastest processing time
  • online status tracking
  • secure payment
  • can file deposit materials electronically (optional)

Other filing options
Fillable and Printable Forms (see all information here) are available for those who would prefer to mail their applications and required materials.

NOTE: A paper application MAY NOT BE USED to register a “collection” of unpublished works.

 

References:

Seiter B. & Seiter, E. (2012). The creative artist's legal guide: Copyright, trademark, and contracts in film and digital media production. New Haven: Yale University Press.

U.S. Copyright Office

Information required for registration

See the Copyright Office's Registration Steps page for additional information about required information, payment options, and deposit options.

  1. About the work
    1. type of work
    2. title of work
      NOTE: titles are not copyrightable; others may have works of the same title
    3. year of completion
    4. if published, date and country of publication
  2. About the creator(s)
    1. full name (if an individual is the creator) (unless anonymous or pseudonym)
    2. organizational name (if a corporate or organizational creator or if work for hire)
    3. each author's country of citizenship and domicile
    4. date of birth (optional, but helps identify creators with the same name)
    5. date of death (required when creator is deceased)
    6. whether the creator's contribution was work for hire, anonymous, or pseudonymous
    7. if multiple creators, indicate each creator's contribution (text, editing, script, etc.)
  3. About copyright ownership (either creator(s) or someone to whom copyright ownership has been transferred)
    1. name
    2. address
    3. if not creator, how ownership was obtained
  4. If the work is based on previously registered or published material, or material in the public domain, or material not owned by the claimant
    • enter limitation of the copyright claim being applied for
      this activates when applying to register a derivative work unless all of the underlying works are unpublished and unregistered works owned by you
      the works that your work is based on will be excluded from your copyright, so you must identify what part(s) are yours
  5. Contact person (optional)
    • You may designate a contact person for members of the public wishing to obtain permission for the use of your copyrighted work
    • This information will be part of the searchable online public records
  6. Correspondence contact (optional)
    • This is the person the Copyright Office will contact with questions about your application
  7. Where to mail your registration
    • The person and address the Copyright Office will mail your registration certificate to

 

References:

Seiter B. & Seiter, E. (2012). The creative artist's legal guide: Copyright, trademark, and contracts in film and digital media production. New Haven: Yale University Press.

At the completion of your application, you will be required to pay the application fee. See the current list of fees.

Payment options include online credit card and electronic check through Pay.gov or with a deposit account.

If you intend on filing many copyright registration applications, you can set up a deposit account with the Copyright Office. For information on setting up and maintaining a deposit account, see Circular 5.

Copyright registration is optional, but deposit is required for works published in the United States. Registration fulfills the deposit requirement (see below for what works are exempt from the deposit requirement). 

Deposit options, in general:

  • For text material, a copy of the work must be deposited. Electronic options are available.
  • For some kinds of applied art and sculptural art works, surrogate materials (often 2D photographs or drawings, whether physical or electronic) are accepted.

Deposit requirements vary, but in general:

  • If the work is unpublished: one complete copy or phonorecord
  • If the work was first published in the United States: one or two complete copies or phonorecords of the best edition*
    required numbers depends on type of work
  • If the work was first published outside the United States: one complete copy or phonorecord of the work as first published

*Best edition in this case refers to what the Library of Congress considers best for its purposes. See Circular 7B for detailed information.

What is Exempt from Mandatory Deposit

NOTE: A work exempt from mandatory deposit is not exempt from the deposit requirements for copyright registration.

Mandatory deposit is required for works published in the United States. Under Copyright Office regulations, the following categories* of published works are exempt from mandatory deposit:

  • Tests and answer material published separately from other works
  • Individually published speeches, sermons, lectures, and addresses
  • Works originally published as part of a collective work (the collective work itself may be subject to mandatory deposit)
  • Literary, dramatic, and musical works published only in phonorecords (the recording itself may be subject to mandatory deposit)
  • Motion picture soundtracks (the motion picture itself may be subject to mandatory deposit)
  • Motion pictures published solely through a license or grant to a nonprofit institution to make a fixation of that program directly from a transmission to the public
  • Scientific or technical diagrams, models, plans, or designs
  • Three-dimensional sculptural works
  • Useful articles
  • Online-only electronic works, with the exception of electronic serials that have been demanded by the Copyright Office

*See Circular 7D for detailed information about mandatory deposit, including how many copies are required, what is exempt from mandatory deposit, and special considerations.

 

References:

Seiter B. & Seiter, E. (2012). The creative artist's legal guide: Copyright, trademark, and contracts in film and digital media production. New Haven: Yale University Press.

After you submit your application, you or your agent may be contacted for additional information.

Applications are reviewed to check that all required information in included, the the deposit requirement is fulfilled, and that the work appears to be copyrightable.

If this is all in order, you should receive a certificate of registration confirming that the work has been registered in the mail within a few months. Note that the date of copyright may be retroactive to the date they received all of the required materials.

If your application is deemed unacceptable, you should receive a letter explaining why it is being rejected and giving you 120 days to respond.

If you feel a mistake has been made but you cannot change the mind of the reviewer, you can submit an appeal to the Copyright Office.

Copyright Registration