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Registration of Copyright

Do I have to be a U.S. citizen to register for a copyright in the United States?

No. Any work that is protected by U.S. copyright law can be registered. All works that are unpublished—regardless of the nationality of the author—are protected in the United States. Works that are first published in the United States or in a country with which the U.S. has a copyright treaty or that are created by a citizen or domiciliary of a country with which U.S. has a copyright treaty are also protected and may be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office.

Can a minor claim copyright?

Minors may claim copyright and the Copyright Office issues registrations to minors. However, state laws regulate the business dealings involving copyrights owned by minors.

TIP: For information on relevant state laws, you should consider consulting an attorney.

Do I need an attorney to file a copyright registration?

No, although it may be desirable to employ an attorney who is familiar with copyright matters. If you follow the instructions on the copyright registration application, you should be able to file the application without the assistance of an attorney.

If I do not feel comfortable doing this myself, where can I find an attorney who handles copyright matters?

First, ask family, friends, neighbors, business associates or your personal attorney for recommendations. If they do not know anyone, the names of attorneys who specialize in copyright law may be found in the telephone book or by contacting a local bar association. Also, local arts groups may be able to recommend someone. The Copyright Office will not recommend an attorney.

How do I register my copyright?

To register a work, submit a completed application form, a nonrefundable filing fee (currently the fee is $30) and a nonreturnable copy or copies of the work to be registered.

Where can I get application forms?

Forms may be downloaded from the U.S. Copyright Office Web site at: www.copyright.gov, in person, by mailing in a request or by calling the Copyright Office 24-hour forms hotline: 202.707.9100.

TIP: If you do not have access to a computer that can download the forms, most public libraries have computers with the capability to download the forms for you.

Can I use copies of the application form?

Yes, you can use copies of copyright application forms if they meet the following criteria: photocopied back-to-back and head-to-head on a single sheet of 8½-inch by 11-inch white paper. In other words, any copy must look just like the original form.

Can I file online?

Currently, there is no online registration. The Copyright Office plans to have online registration available for use sometime in 2005.

What is the registration fee?

The current filing fee is $30 per application. Generally, each work requires a separate application. As with government fees generally, be sure to check before filing your application. Failure to enclose the proper fee will cause delay or rejection of your application.

How do I pay the registration fee?

Payment should be made by check, bank money order or bank draft. Do not send cash. The Copyright Office does not accept credit cards for registration unless the registrations are filed in person in the Copyright Office.

Do I have to send in my work?

Yes, you must deposit the required copy or copies of the work to be registered. A deposit is usually one copy of an unpublished work or two copies of a published work that is to be registered for copyright. In certain cases such as works of the visual arts, identifying material such as a photograph may be used instead. The deposit is sent with the application and fee and becomes the property of the Library of Congress.

What are the deposit requirements?

The deposit requirements vary in particular situations. The general requirements follow, but you should check at the U.S. Copyright Office Web site (www.copyright.gov) under Special Deposit Requirements.

  • If the work was first published in the United States on or after Jan. 1, 1978, two complete copies or phonorecords of the best edition.
  • If the work was first published in the United States before Jan. 1, 1978, two complete copies or phonorecords of the work as first published.
  • If the work was first published outside the United States, one complete copy or phonorecord of the work as first published.
  • If sending multiple works, all applications, deposits and fees should be sent in the same package. If possible, applications should be attached to the appropriate deposit. Whenever possible, number each package (e. g., "1 of 3," "2 of 4") to facilitate processing.

Can a computer disk be used to submit a work?

No. Floppy disks and other removal media such as Zip disks, except for CDs, are not acceptable to meet the deposit requirement. Generally, the Copyright Office requires a printed copy or audio recording of the work for deposit.

CDs are allowed. The deposit requirement consists of the best edition of the CD package of any work, including the accompanying operating software, instruction manual and a printed version, if included in the package.

Do I get my copies back?

No, the copies will not be returned. Upon their deposit in the Copyright Office, under the federal copyright law, all copies and identifying material, including those deposited in connection with claims that have been refused registration, become the property of the U.S. government.

May I register more than one work on the same application? Where do I list the titles?

You may register unpublished works as a collection on one application with one title for the entire collection if certain conditions are met. It is not necessary to list the individual titles in your collection, although you may by completing a Form CON.

SIDEBAR: Published works may only be registered as a collection if they were actually first published as a collection and if other requirements have been met.

Do I have to use my real name on the form? Can I use a "pseudonym" or stage name or a pen name?

Yes, you may use a "pseudonym" or stage name or a pen name. There is no legal requirement that the author be identified by his or her real name on the application form. The application forms provide for filing under a fictitious name.

How long does the registration process take?

The time to process an application varies depending on the amount of material the Copyright Office receives. If the application is properly prepared and meets the fee and deposit requirements, it generally takes 4 to 5 months after receipt of the submission before you will receive your certificate of copyright registration.

Does the Copyright Office have special mailing requirements?

The only requirement is that all three elements—the application, the copy or copies of the work and the required filing fee—be sent in the same package. There is no need to send material by certified mail with a return receipt request.

Where do I file my copyright registration?

A copyright registration is filed with the U.S. Copyright Office by mailing it to:

Library of Congress
Copyright Office
101 Independence Ave. S.E.,
Washington, D.C. 20559-6000

The Copyright Office does not provide a confirmation of receipt.

Currently, if you use a commercial carrier (such as Federal Express®, Airborne Express, DHL® Worldwide Express or United Parcel Service®), that company may be able to provide an acknowledgment of receipt by the Copyright Office. Claims to copyright may also be hand delivered to the Copyright Office.

When does a copyright registration become effective?

A copyright registration is effective on the date the Copyright Office receives all the required elements in acceptable form, regardless of how long it then takes to process the application and mail the certificate of registration. The time the Copyright Office requires to process an application varies, depending on the amount of material the Office is receiving.

TIP: If you apply for copyright registration, you will not receive an acknowledgment that your application has been received, but you can expect:

  • a letter or a telephone call from a Copyright Office staff member if further information is needed; or
  • a certificate of registration indicating that the work has been registered; or
  • if the application cannot be accepted, a letter explaining why it has been rejected.