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.

Registering your copyright with the CopyCatch app or online is real simple. Once you have a new account, login and click on your "dashboard" to monitor your cases and open new cases. Once you click on a "new case" the required form appears and you can answer all the questions upload a copy of your work, and authorize a payment to complete your application. We will take over after that and handle the rest of the registration process. We will submit your application to the Copyright Office and monitor your application until it is registered. Meanwhile you can always visit your dashboard and check the status of all of your applications. A copy of all the works you have submitted stays in your dashboard for later referral and or use.

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.

Yes.  However, if you register more than three months after the first publication of your work or after an infringement occurs, you will not be entitled to additional damages under the law, such as statutory damages or attorney fees.  Also, if you register more than five years after the first publication, you will not be entitled to a presumption of validity under the law.
The copyright in the work immediately becomes the property of the author at the time the work is created in a fixed form.  Only the author or someone who derived the rights from the author (claimant) can claim copyright to a work.  If the author is employed and the work was “made for hire” in connection with the employment responsibilities, the author is the employer.
Currently, the wait time for the Copyright Office is about 8-10 months from the time your application is submitted. However, your effective date of the registration is the date that the application was submitted, and Not the date that the Copyright Office actually registered the work.

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.

Absent any written agreement that expressly assigns the copyright to the work or if applicable identifies the work as work made for hire, the independent contractor owns the copyright to a work.

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.

Some examples of types of works that may qualify as a unit of publication are: "a bound volume and dust jacket; a compact disc with liner notes and cover art; a multimedia kit containing a book, a recording, and a set of stickers; a board game; or the like.
Yes as long as the elements are copyrightable. The copyright office does not examine the copyrightability of each element. A catalog is considered a collective work. As such, the requirements for registration depends on whether at the time of filing the application, the catalog was published or unpublished. In the case of an unpublished catalog, make sure that the four requirements for registration are met. These requirements are: 1) the elements of the catalog are assembled in an orderly form, (2) the combined elements have a single title identifying the catalog as a whole (ex. “fall collection”, (3) the copyright claimant in all the elements and in the catalogs 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. If your company has commissioned an outside entity to prepare the catalog, you have to make sure that there are executed work made hire arrangements and assignments by all parties that have contributed to the final catalog, including photographers, editors, and advertising agencies and PR companies. With that arrangement the common author is the company that has commissioned all the work that has contributed towards the creation of the catalog.

For a published catalog in order to be able to get a registration for the individual elements in the catalog, all of the units depicted in the catalog would have to be distributed to the public together as a bundle or set. In other words, even though pictures of individual pieces in a catalog are published together in the catalog, if the pieces themselves are distributed separately to the public, the collection as a whole may not be considered a "unit of publication," and may not be registered as a collection by the Copyright Office. 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.
For works published after March 1, 1989, you do not need a copyright notice.  However,  it’s a good idea to place a notice on your work.  Sometimes an infringer can avoid willful infringement damages by claiming innocent infringement defense.  With a notice in place the infringer cannot claim that they were not aware that the work was registered.
A copyright notice contains a “C” in a circle, along with the year of first publication and the work’s claimant: ex. © 2017, John Doe.
The date that a complete application is submitted to the Copyright Office is the effective registration date.  An application is considered complete when all the necessary information is provided to the Copyright Office along with the deposit requirement, which is two copies of the work and the government fees.
Works created (fixed in tangible form for the first time) on or after January 1, 1978, are automatically protected from the moment of creation and endure for the author’s life plus an additional 70 years after the author’s death. In the case of “a joint work prepared by two or more authors who did not work for hire,” the term lasts for 70 years after the last surviving author’s death. For works made for hire, and for anonymous and pseudonymous works (unless the author’s identity is revealed in Copyright Office records), the duration of copyright will be 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation, whichever is shorter.
If the appearance of the cake’s decorations, are artistic and capable of being recognized artistically apart from the function of the cake, then you can register the cake's design.
There are few aspects to a dress design: design sketches; fabric patterns; graphic designs on the surface; shape and cut. Original sketches of your design is subject to protection. No one can copy your sketch. However, the protection is only in the drawing itself, and may not extend to an actual clothing that is manufactured based on that sketch. As for the fabric pattern, the author of the fabric design can claim a copyright to the design, as long as the design contains a sufficient amount of creative expression. As for the graphic design, the U.S. Supreme Court in Star Athletica v. Varsity Brands ruled that "two-dimensional designs appearing on the surface of clothing" including "combinations, positioning, and arrangement" of shapes, colors, lines, etc. are protectable by copyright. The chevrons and lines on a cheerleader uniform were deemed protectable. This ruling can potentially expand the protection to surface decorations on a clothing design under copyright law. As to shape and cut of a dress, there may be no copyright protection, since the dress is a utilitarian article, and as such not protectable under copyright law.
Yes. Copyright registration for carpet designs is probably the most efficient and effective way to protect the creative rights of the designer. Again, simple geometric designs may not be protected, but original works with some level of creativity can be deemed protectable under the copyright law.
Building designs and floor plans created on or after December 1, 1990 are eligible for copyright protection and registration. Furthermore, designs that were created in unpublished plans or drawings but not constructed as of December 1, 1990, but were constructed before January 1, 2003 are also eligible. Bridges, cloverleafs, dams, walkways, tents, recreational vehicles, mobile homes and boats are NOT eligible building designs. Commonly known design features, such as colonial style architecture, or standard configurations of spaces and standard features, such as windows, doors, and other staple building components, as well as functional elements whose design or placement is dictated by utilitarian concerns are NOT eligible for copyright protection. It is important to note that a claim to copyright in an architectural work is distinct from a claim in technical drawings of the work. If registration is sought for both an architectural work and technical drawings of the work, a separate application and fees must be submitted.
There are times that you will require your registration as fast as possible. These may include pending or prospective litigation, customs matters, or contract or publishing deadlines. In such situations, you can request the Copyright Office to process your copyright application under Special Handling. Special Handling is a procedure for expediting the examination of your application to register a claim to a copyright, typically within a few days. Once a request for special handling is approved, the Copyright Office endeavors to complete its examination of the application within five business days. However, the Copyright Office specifically states that it cannot guarantee that every document or claim will be registered within this time frame. The government fee for registering a copyright under special handling is $800 in addition to the usual fee of $35 for single work/single author or $55 for work made for hire or multiple author, multiple work applications. The special handling fee is non-refundable and is charged as soon as the work is submitted to the Copyright Office for handling. If you are requesting special handling of a registration for litigation purposes, your request should state whether the litigation is actual or prospective, whether you are the plaintiff or the defendant, and the names of the parties and the name of the court where the litigation is pending or expected. Just the same as with all other statements to the Copyright Office, you must include a statement certifying that the information contained in your request for special handling is correct to the best of your knowledge.

View our articles to learn more about copyright registration for creative works.