In theory, copyright protection is established the moment a work is published, recorded, or composed. According to the U.S. Copyright Office, any original work that is created is protected by the copyright law. The law applies to authored work that is in a material form, whether it is published or unpublished.
The types of work that can be protected by copyright are:
- Literary works
- Musical works
- Website content
- Computer software
While the law automatically protects your manuscript, it is still a good idea to register your work at the copyright office in order to strengthen your protection. It is also important to know what you must bring to the Copyright Office when you register your claim.
Bring a Completed Application Form
To start the registration process, copyright filers must complete and submit an application to the copyright office. A copyright registration application can be accessed online or by requesting that forms be sent to you by mail. Application forms are categorized depending on the kind of work you are registering. Those forms are:
- Form TX for literary works such as books and articles
- Form VA for visual art works, such as video, photographs and paintings
- Form PA for performing arts work such as plays, musicals, and motion pictures
- Form SR for sound recordings such as audio books, music CD’s, and other recordings
- Form SE for single serials.
Bring a Non-Refundable Application Fee
In order to file your copyright claim with the U.S. Copyright Office, you must have on hand a non-refundable application fee. The application-filing fee is normally about $65 and can be paid by check or money order.
Bring Copies of Your Work
The registration process is not complete unless you bring a copy or copies of your manuscript, book, movie or other works with you to the copyright office. Copies can consist of whatever form you choose. The U.S. Copyright Office does not specify the manner in which your completed work is submitted. It is best, however, to check with the copyright office because its guidelines may change without notice. The Copyright Office will hold or “deposit” a copy of your work on file as proof that the published work belongs to you.
Registration Is the Safe Thing to Do
Filing a claim with the Copyright Office is not necessary for your published work to be protected; protection begins the moment your book, music, video, or film is created. Registering with the Copyright Office is necessary if you want to fully protect your work from copyright infringement. For instance, if you do not register your created work with the Copyright Office and someone uses your work without permission, you cannot sue them for infringement because there is no evidence that the work belongs to you. A copy of your work must be on file with the Copyright Office to prove that a published work belongs to you. Publication is not valid proof of ownership in copyright infringement cases.