Filing for a Copyright

Copyright Gavel

According to the U.S. Copyright Office, a copyright is “a form of protection grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression.” A copyright covers a work whether it is published or unpublished. A copyright initially belongs to the author(s) of a work, including joint authors of a single work if they meant to make their contributions inseparable or interdependent. Multiple authors who contribute to a collective work have separate copyright interests in their individual contributions.

Original works of authorship protected by a copyright include, but are not limited to:

– Literary works

– Musical works, including any accompanying words

– Dramatic works, including any accompanying music

– Pantomimes and choreographic works

– Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works

– Motion pictures and other audiovisual works

– Sound recordings, which are works that result from the fixation of a series of musical, spoken, or other sounds

– Architectural works

According to the Copyright Office, copyright protection grants exclusive rights to:

– Reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords

– Prepare derivative works based upon the work

– Distribute copies or phonorecords of the work to the public by sale or other transfer of owner-ship or by rental, lease, or lending

– Perform the work publicly if it is a literary, musical, dramatic, or choreographic work; a pantomime; or a motion picture or other audiovisual work

– Display the work publicly if it is a literary, musical, dramatic, or choreographic work; a pantomime; or a pictorial, graphic, or sculptural work

– Perform the work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission if the work is a sound recording

Certain things are not protected by copyright. These include, for example, ideas, procedures, methods, systems, processes, concepts, principles, or discoveries. Works that are not fixed in a tangible form; familiar symbols or designs; and titles, names, and short phrases or slogans are also not protected by copyright. However, the ways in which all of these things are expressed may be protected.

Generally speaking, for works created on or after Jan. 1, 1978, copyright protection lasts for the life of the author plus seventy years. A copyright owner may transfer his or her exclusive rights in writing.

A copyright is different from a trademark or trade name in that copyright protects original works of authorship. By contrast, a trademark protects words, phrases, symbols, or designs that distinguish one party’s goods or services from another’s. A trade name is a business name, similar to a DBA (“doing business as”) name.

Due to existing international agreements, a U.S. copyright is recognized in most countries around the world. However, the U.S. does not have such an agreement with every country. See here for more on international copyright relations. 

Why Should I File for a Copyright?

A work automatically receives copyright protection as soon as it is created and “fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device,” the Copyright Office explains. Although filing for a copyright is not necessary to receive copyright protection, there are several advantages of doing so. These include:

– Establishment of a public record of a copyright claim

– The ability to file a copyright infringement lawsuit if necessary

– The ability to recover statutory damages, as well as attorney’s fees and costs associated with the copyright infringement lawsuit

– Eligibility to establish a record with U.S. Customs and Border Protection for protection against the importation of infringing copies of the work

How Do I Register My Work with the U.S. Copyright Office?

To file for a copyright with the Copyright Office:

1) Complete an application

2) Pay a nonrefundable filing fee

3) Mail a physical copy or upload a digital copy of the work to the Copyright Office

Registering online is faster and requires a lower filing fee than using paper forms. In addition, you can track the status of your application and pay securely via credit card. Even if you want to submit a hard copy of your work, you can still register online.

Once your application is complete, expect to wait at least several months for the Copyright Office to advise you of its decision; waits of eight months or more are not uncommon. In the meantime, be sure to keep the Copyright Office apprised of any change of name, address, or other pertinent information so the office can get in touch with you if needed.

A copyright is effective on the date that the Copyright Office receives all the required paperwork.

Contact Counxel Legal Firm

Copyright laws can be complex, and you may not be entirely clear on what can be copyrighted or the correct filing procedure. If you would like to talk to an attorney about filing for a copyright, contact us at (480) 744-6621 or at Don’t forget to check out the good things that others are saying about the services they received from Timothy Coons on Google.

This article is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice for your specific situation. Use of and access to this article does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Counxel Legal Firm. Please contact or (480) 744-6621 to request specific information for your situation.

*Conveniently located off the 101 Freeway and the US 60 in the middle of Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe, Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa, and Queen Creek!

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