Creators of written content may wish to pursue formal copyright registration in order to have enforceable rights related to their work, which in this context can include literary work, sound recordings, motion pictures, software, dramatic works, and more. All of the U.S. Copyright Office forms you may need to complete in order to register your copyright are available on the Copyright Office's website. You can read more about copyright law and review the questions and answers below to develop an understanding of some of the primary features of the copyright application process and identify some of the specific forms you may need.
How Do I Submit a Copyright Application?
According to the Copyright Office, it is preferable for copyright holders to submit applications for registration through the Electronic Copyright Office (eCO) system when possible, and if available for the type of work they wish to register. To apply online, you will need to establish an eCO account (email address required), complete your application, pay any required fees, and submit a copy of your work.
Did You Know?
According to the U.S. Copyright Office, online applications are typically processed much faster than paper applications.
If you prefer to submit your application on paper, forms are available for literary works (Form TX), visual arts works (Form VA), sound recordings (Form SR), performing arts works such as motion pictures (Form PA), and single serial issues (Form SE).
Though online applications are generally preferred, note that you must submit a paper application for some types of registrations, including for mask works (Form MW) and vessel designs (Form D-VH).
How Much Does It Cost to Register a Copyright?
For basic registration, filing online costs $45 for a single application (single author, same claimant, not for hire, one work) and $65 for a standard application, whereas filing your application on paper costs $125.
The cost for registrations for groups of related claims can range from $35 to $500 depending on the type of work. Other fees that may apply depending on your situation can include $100 to $150 to file corrections to registrations, $350 and up for requests for reconsideration, a $125 minimum for renewal, and several hundred dollars for expedited processing.
You can submit a copy of your work electronically if you meet one or more of certain conditions, which include that the work must be unpublished or has only been published electronically, best edition requirements do not apply to the work, or you are utilizing group registration for serials, unpublished works, newspapers, photographs, newsletters, secure test items, or contributions to periodicals. Certain group registration options, such as for unpublished works by the same author or co-authors, require digital submission of a copy of each work you are registering. Other classes of works require the submission of a physical copy to the Copyright Office, though you can still file your application and fees online.
How Do I Renew a Copyright?
You can renew a copyright for works published or registered between January 1, 1964 and December 31, 1977 using Form RE, which currently can only be submitted on paper (not electronically). For works published but not registered during this timeframe, you may also need to file Form RE/Addendum. Works that established copyright protection after that timeframe are generally provided with copyright protection for the lifetime of the author plus 70 years.
How Can I Protect the Rights to My Work Before It is Finished or Released?
If you are concerned that someone may infringe upon your work before you finish or release it, and the work in question is being prepared for commercial distribution as a sound recording, motion picture, musical composition, computer program, literary work, or advertising or marketing photograph, you may be able to preregister your work with the Copyright Office.
Can I Request Expedited Processing?
You can ask to expedite a registration or document recordation by filing a Special Handling Request Form under circumstances involving pending or prospective litigation, publishing or contractual deadlines, or customs matters. The special handling fee is $800 per claim.