How to Get a Copyright

By Shannon C , last updated June 29, 2011

Obtaining a copyright is not as difficult as it may at first appear to the uninitiated. The major challenge for first time copyright seekers is just to figure out where to go and what forms to fill out. The United States Copyright Office is the official clearinghouse for copyright registration, and maintains a wealth of forms and resources as well as a question hotline where registrants can call and ask their copyright questions. Learn more about how to obtain a copyright and how to protect your original works in this manner.

What is a Copyright

Basically, a copyright is a type of what is called "intellectual property", which refers to its origin in the mind of its creator. Works of literature, music, drama, art, and other intellectual property such as software, poetry, movies and even architecture can be copyrighted. A copyright cannot protect ideas, methods of operation, systems, or facts. However, a copyright may be able to protect unique forms of expression or execution related to these things.

What Does a Copyright Do

A copyright will protect the originator's rights to use of the form of intellectual property that is registered under copyright. This means that if another entity wishes to use the intellectual property, they must apply to the originator for permission, and often small to substantial fees as well as proper documentation in any derivative usage is required in order for a third party to use someone else's intellectual property.

How Do You Register for a Copyright

While there are of different services that may offer assistance with copyright registration, generally these services are more expensive than they need be due to the involvement of a third party. The easiest and cheapest way to register a copyright is simply to visit the U.S. Copyright Office website and download the proper forms to register your intellectual property. There are a number of methods by which you can register, including using the U.S. Copyright Office e-registration online system, printing out and sending in paper copyright forms, and in addition to your forms you must submit a copy of the work to be copyrighted for review.

What Forms Do I Need to Register a Copyright

You will need to consult the U.S. Copyright Office website for a complete list of forms, which will give you a listing of which forms are to be used for which types of intellectual property. Generally speaking, Form TX is used for registering literary works, Form PA is used for registering performing arts works, Form VA is used for registering visual arts works, Form SR is used for registering sound recordings, and Form SE is used for registering works called single serials. However, if you have questions about the appropriate form to use you can always call the U.S. Copyright Office and ask for help.

How Much Does it Cost to Register a Copyright

Fees will differ depending on how you register, and how many works you register at one time. Online registrations are 35 dollars per work or group of works, and paper registrations are 50 dollars per work or group of works.

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