Copyright is a form of intellectual property protection for a work created by authors, such as literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other creative works. The owner of the work has the exclusive right to reproduce the works, prepare derivative works based upon the work, distribute copies to the public, perform or display the work publicly.
It is illegal for anyone to violate any of the rights provided by the copyright law to the owner of copyright. There are some exemptions, such as “fair use.”
In general, copyright registration is a legal formality to make a public record of the facts of a particular copyright. But registration is not a condition for copyright protection. The copyright begins to exist the moment the work by its creator has become fixed in a tangible medium of expression.
Even though registration is not necessary for protection, the copyright law provides advantages for registered works: (1) your registration establishes a public record of the claim to the copyright, (2) you cannot bring an infringement action in a court before first registering your copyright, (3) if you register the work within 5 years of publication, registration will serve as evidence in court that the copyright is valid, (4) if you register either within three months after your first publication of the work, or prior to an infringement by a third party, you will be entitled to statutory damages and your attorney fees, if you register after the infringement occurs, you will be entitled to infringer’s profits or your own lost profits, and no attorney fees or statutory fees; and (5) you can record your copyright registration with the U.S. Customs Service for protection against importation of infringing copies.
With CopyCatch, you can take as many pictures of your work, or videos or recordings with your smart phone and upload them easily along with your copyright application. In addition, the dashboard feature allows you to archive and access all your applications and their status in one place. Your application is monitored while it is pending in the Copyright Office and you receive a notification as the application proceeds to registration. If we do not hear from the Copyright Office while your application is pending over 8 months, we will inquire as to the status of your application on your behalf. Furthermore, with CopyCatch you can always access the copy of the actual work that you submitted to the Copyright Office at any time from your dashboard. Our FAQ section is continuously updated in an attempt to provide you with the Copyright Office's latest interpretations of the registration practice. CopyCatch service is simple, inexpensive and comprehensive.
“Original works of authorship,” that are fixed in a tangible form are protected. Copyright works include (1) literary works, (2) musical works, including any accompanying words, (3) dramatic works, including any accompanying music, (4) pantomimes and choreographic works, (5) pictorial, graphic and sculptural works, (6) motion pictures and other audiovisual works, (7) sound recordings, (8) architectural works. These are broad categories. For example, a computer program or compilations may be registered as literary works; maps and architectural plans may be registered as “pictorial, graphic and sculptural works.”
Works that are not fixed in a tangible form of expression are NOT protected. For example, choreographic works that have not been noted or recorded or improvised speeches or performances that have not been written or recorded are not protected. Neither are titles, names, short Phrases, and slogan can be protected. Familiar symbols or shapes are not protected either. Listings of ingredients or contents cannot be protected. You cannot get a copyright for ideas, procedures, methods, systems, processes, concepts, principles, discoveries or devices. But the specific way of describing, explaining or illustrating an idea, or concept can be copyrighted.
A work prepared by an employee within the scope of employment; or
A work specially ordered or commissioned in an express written agreement for use as: (1) a contribution to a collective work, (2) a part of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, (3) a translation, (4) a supplementary work, (5) a compilation, (6) an instructional text, (6) a test, (7) answer material for a test, (8) an atlas.
Yes, under special circumstances. For example, in the case of an unpublished collection a work may be registered as a “collection,” with one application form and one fee if (1) the elements of the collection are assembled in an orderly form, (2) the combined elements have a single title identifying the collection as a whole, (3) the copyright claimant in all the elements and in the collection as a whole is the same entity; and (4) each of the elements is created by the same author, or if they are by different authors, at least one of them contributed copyrightable authorship to each one of the elements in the collection. It is extremely important that all 4 conditions are met. If any one of the 4 conditions is not met, the registration may be invalid. For example, an unpublished collection will not have a valid registration if the claimant did receive the copyrights for multiple works from multiple authors, but the works don’t have a common authorship.
In the case of published collection a work may be registered if all the elements are being registered as a "single unit of publication." In order to be eligible for registration as a unit of publication, "the separate elements must be physically bundled together for distribution to the public as a single, integrated unit." For example, with respect to jewelry a box containing a necklace and matching earrings that is sold as a set to the public would be considered a unit of publication, whereas a catalog of a number of separate jewelry pieces that can be purchased individually would not. All the works must be owned by the same entity as well.
View our articles to learn more about copyright registration for creative works.