So you've just created a literary, musical or artistic masterpiece - how do you know your work is safe from unauthorized use or reproductions? Without federal copyright protection your creation may be copied by anyone without your consent. While registering a copyright does not require an attorney, copyright law can be very complex and is ever-changing so it is essential to understand what your copyright extends to when you complete your registration. That is why many savvy creators of original work turn to online services to register their copyright for an accurate and hassle-free solution.
What is a Copyright?
Let's start by defining a copyright. A copyright
is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States to the authors
or creators of original works that may be literary, dramatic, musical, artistic,
and certain other intellectual works. Computer programs and most "compilations" may be registered
as "literary works" while maps and architectural plans may be registered
as pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works. This protection is available to
both published and unpublished works. The owner of copyright has the exclusive
right to do and to authorize others to do the following:
- Reproduce the work
- Prepare derivative works based upon the work
- Distribute copies of the work to the public by sale or other
transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease or lending
- Perform the work publicly
- Display the copyrighted work publicly
- To perform the work publicly by means of a digital audio
What Can't You Copyright
There are a few categories of material that are generally not eligible for
federal copyright protection. These include but are not limited to:
- Works that have not been fixed in a tangible
form of expression. For example, choreographic works that have not been notated
or recorded, or speeches or performances that have not been written or recorded
- Titles, names, short phrases, and slogans
- Familiar symbols or designs
- Ideas, procedures, methods, systems, processes, concepts, principles, discoveries
or devices as distinguished from a description, explanation, or illustration.
- Works consisting entirely of information that
is common property and containing no original authorship. For example, standard
calendars, height and weight charts, tape measures and rulers, and lists
or tables taken from public documents or other common sources.
While copyright is secured automatically when the work is created, there are,
however, certain definite advantages to registration. Registration establishes
a public record of the copyright claim and allows the owner of the copyright
to record the registration with the U. S. Customs Service for protection against
the creation of infringing copies. If registration is made within three months
after publication of the work or prior to an infringement of the work, statutory
damages and attorney's fees will be available to the copyright owner in court
actions. Otherwise, only an award of actual damages and profits is available
to the copyright owner.
Costs to Consider
Online copyright services can cost from $10 to $120 to prepare a federal copyright
application. The U.S. government application fee of $30 is additional. The
same basic services from an attorney can cost upwards of $700.
How Long Will This Take?
You can expect to spend 10 - 30 minutes or more filling out forms if registering
your copyright online. Most services will allow you save your work and come
back later so all the information does not have to be inputted in one sitting.
A copyright registration is effective on the date the Copyright Office receives
all the required elements in acceptable form, regardless of how long it them
takes to process the application and mail the certificate of registration.
Copyright Registration Fast, Easy and Smart
Many companies that offer online copyright registration provide their
clients with a 100% satisfaction guarantee on their services, available customer
service and legal document reviewers that examine your information for completeness
and other common errors. Just as each copyrighted creation is unique, the diversity
of services offered by online companies is immense. For a complete listing
of reviewed sites that offer copyright registration services online and how
they compare as far as ease of use, price, specific services offered and customer
service please see below.