Copyright Office Q&A

What protection does copyright give?

Copyright, which protects intellectual property rights, will protect original works of literature, poetry, movies, songs, architecture and computer software. Copyright law only protects “expression” (fixed, tangible works) and does not protect ideas or concepts.

How do I know if my work is protected?

Any work that is tangible and can be reproduced or distributed is protected from the moment of its creation.

What is the contact information for the U.S. Copyright Office?

Copyright Office
Library of Congress
101 Independence Avenue
S.E., Washington, D.C. 20559-6000
(202) 707-3000.
Application Forms: (202) 707-9100.

Where can I find registration application forms?

Forms can be obtained directly from the copyright office, from, or by calling (202) 707 – 9100.

How long will it be before I receive my Certificate of Registration?

You should receive your Certificate of Registration within 6-12 months of sending in your application. The current estimated wait time is eight months, though this can vary according to time of year and amount of applications the office receives.

What is a mandatory deposit?

In order for you to receive a Certificate of Registration, you will be required to send one or two copies of the work to the U.S. Copyright Office for verification. In the case of visual arts, a photograph can substitute for an actual representation of the material, though you should check with the copyright office to make sure. Once the mandatory deposit has been sent, it becomes the property of the Library of Congress.

Is it necessary for me to register my work?

Not unless litigation is necessary. Works that are disputed for copyright infringement must be registered with the U.S. Copyright office, but otherwise, it is at the sole discretion of the other of the work.

Is the U.S. Copyright Office the only place I can go to register a copyright?

You can find copies of the registration application in public libraries, reference books and sometimes through the post office, but the U.S. Copyright Office is the only place where you can deposit your application and receive your Certificate of Registration.

How do I register my copyright?

In order to register your copyright, you will need to send an application form, the requisite number of copies of the work, a non-refundable fee of $45. Once your application has been accepted or reviewed, you will receive a Certificate of Registration.

How do I know that my application was received by the U.S. Copyright Office?

The best way to be sure that the Copyright Office has received your application is to send it by registered mail so that you receive confirmation that it was received.

Can I register more than one work on a single application?

Only works which are published as a compilation or collection can be registered using one application form. Unpublished works that can be grouped under the same title can also be published in this manner. It is not necessary to use the name of each article on the application form, though you can do this by completing a continuation form. However, separate published or unpublished works require separate applications and fees.

Will I need to renew my copyright registration?

Works that were copyrighted after 1-1-78 are not subject to renewal. However, works copyrighted before that date can be renewed for a fee.

Can material be submitted on computer disks or CD’s?

The U.S. Copyright Office requires that your manuscript or other material be sent in print or on an audio cassette (in the case of a song).

Can recipes be protected under copyright law?

Recipes can be copyrighted as long as they are original formulas for cooking or baking that were created by the person submitting the registration application. Lists of ingredients cannot be copyrighted.

Can I register my grandfather’s journal?

The only way in which you can register material not authored by you is if the material was given to you or left to you in a will or inheritance.

Are there laws prohibiting minors from registering a copyright?

Minors are not barred from copyright registration, but some state laws may required that business dealings be handled by someone who is of age. It is best to contact an attorney for these matters, or to have a parent or legal guardian represent the minor.

Are stage or pen names allowed in copyright registration?

As long as you have adopted your pen or stage name as a legal alias, you can use it on your copyright registration.

Can I copyright the name of my musical group?

Names are not protected by copyright law, though in some cases, they can be protected by trademark or unfair competition laws.

How long will my registration last?

Copyrights registered after 1-1-78 are effective for seventy years beyond the author’s death, or beyond the last-living co-authors death. Works for hire are protected for ninety-five years beyond the date of the first publication, or for one hundred and twenty years beyond the date of creation, whichever comes first.

How much of another copyrighted work can I use without getting into trouble?

The precise number of words or musical notes is determine on a case-by-case basis. Typically you are allowed to use a minimal number of words or musical notes as long as you give credit to the original author.

When is it necessary to re-register a copyright?

Minor copyediting or grammatical changes do not warrant that the author must obtain a new registration, but if the work is changed substantially or creatively, a new copyright registration would be necessary. For example, you would need to re-register if you added an addition 10 pages to the end of a book.

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