Although many people shy away from the copyright registration process, it is actually quite simple. Copyright registration involves the legal application of a creative work to its owner or author. Copyright registration is completed with the U.S. Copyright Office, which is located in Washington D.C. Registration can be completed by mail, and usually takes a period of six-to-twelve months.
The copyright registration process requires that the applicant fill out all information on the application, and submit the non-refundable copyright fee, which currently is $45. The applicant will also be required to submit a copy of the work, in its entirety, before receiving the Certificate of Registration.
In certain circumstances, which must be approved by the Copyright Office, registration of a creative work can be expedited. Circumstances might include pending litigation, in which case the registration must be completed immediately. There is an extra fee for this, and it is better to simply copyright your work as soon as it has been created.
Registered works can be both published and unpublished, though it is understandably more pertinent for published works. For the purpose of gaining substantial legal recourse, published works should be registered within three months of publication. Unpublished works are a subjective matter that should be considered with regard to distribution and the likelihood of infringement. To stay on the safe side, the owners of all creative works are encouraged to register with the copyright office.
Copyright Preregistration is also an option for people who are concerned that their work will be stolen before the actual work is released. This is only recommended in high-profile instances when the author wishes to protect the work from conception. To qualify for preregistration, work must be unpublished but already begun.
Registration and preregistration forms can be obtained from the U.S. Copyright Office with regard to the type of work that needs to be copyrighted. For example, Form TX refers to non-dramatic published or unpublished literary works; Form PA is reserved for dramatic works meant to be performed; and Form SE protects serial publications. You can consult with a representative from the copyright office if you need help discerning the correct form for your work.
Copyright registration can be completed by the author or creator, or it can be facilitated by a copyright attorney. It is advisable to seek the counsel of an attorney if you are unfamiliar with the copyright registration process or if you require special consideration.
Once your application has been approved, you will receive a Certificate of Registration, which should be kept in a safe location for future reference. Copyright registrations are valid for the entire lifespan of the author plus seventy years, which covers quite a bit of ground. Once you have registered your work, it will be safe from copyright infringement and you can rest easy upon publication.