File a copyright to protect the original works you’ve created. While copyrights automatically trigger, filing a copyright reinforces with the government shows how serious you are about protecting it. Otherwise, someone else may intentionally or unintentionally get away with using your works.
It’s critical that you navigate the registration process accurately. This article explains everything you need to know about filing for a copyright:
What Is a Copyright?
Copyrights are intellectual property protections on an original piece of creative work. You can use copyrights in conjunction with trademarks and patents that are specific to your work’s size, design, and expression.
A copyright also protects fixed works. Fixed works are those created in a permanent medium. Examples of fixed works include recordings and writings.
How Do You File for a Copyright?
Copyright is automatic when you create an artistic work. You can apply for copyright protection from the United States Copyright Office if you want to enforce these protections.
Examples of works that you can copyright include:
- Written words
- Composed music
- Original art
- Architectural designs
- And more
The good news is that’s it’s a reasonably straightforward process to obtain a copyright. Below, we’ve outlined a step-by-step process for protecting your original works:
Step 1. Perform a Copyright Registration Search
Think your copyright is original? Think again!
Make sure you confirm this fact before filing a copyright. Conduct a thorough copyright registration search through the Library of Congress.
This step is critical since legal consequences are on the line. If you’re worried about mistakenly encroaching upon another’s work, hire a legal professional to perform this task and guarantee your search efforts in case it’s questioned in the future.
Step 2. Obtain Written Agreements from Collaborators
If your employees assisted in the creation of your work as part of their job, copyright law mandates that they transfer their authorship to you. It’s a good idea to draft agreements if this situation applies to your works.
When it comes to copyright, laws treat independent contractors differently. Unless a written agreement exists, the contractor automatically retains the IP rights to that work.
Ensure that your freelance contract include work-made-for-hire provisions. Otherwise, you might infringe upon contractors’ legal rights.
Step 3. Affix a Copyright Notice to Your Work
A copyright notice on your company’s work is helpful, even if it isn’t required by law. It notifies people that you protected the work while preventing potential infringers from successfully arguing in court that copying your work was an innocent mistake.
Copyright notices should be prominently displayed on the work and include the following four elements:
- Copyright symbol (“©”)
- Year of publishing
- Author name
- “All rights reserved” statement
Many professionals affix this copyright notice in an inconspicuous place on the work as not to distract from the aesthetic. However, it would be best not to go out of your way to hide it completely.
Step 4. Register Your Copyright with the US Copyright Office
If your work qualifies for copyright protection, you can either fill out a paper registration form or file electronically through the US Copyright Office’s Registration Portal. Depending on the type of work, the application form and information required will differ.
To ensure that you complete and submit all required information, carefully read the instructions on the form. You can also gain clarity with legal advice by speaking with an intellectual property lawyer .
Here is the Copyright.gov web page where you can register your copyright.
Step 5. Retain a Copy of Your Certificate of Registration
Your registration is effective the day they receive and process your application when approved. However, it’s still possible that your application could result in a denial. As such, it’s critical that you complete your forms carefully and correctly.
Depending on the method you used to file for registration and the complexity and completeness of your application, processing time can range from two months to two years.
The Copyright Office will send you a certificate of registration for your copyrighted work after processing. If denied, you can file a request for reconsideration and pay an additional fee. Regardless of the outcome, ensure that you retain copies of all communications sent and received.
Who Needs to File for a Copyright?
Intellectual property owners need to file for a copyright. If you’ve created written work, music, or artwork, then a copyright helps reinforce ownership. A copyright lasts for 70 years, which makes it a low-maintenance form of protection.
Examples of professions that need to file a copyright include:
- Furniture designers
- Software engineers
- Web designers
Your copyrights make your business unique. Don’t let other people encroach upon your sweat and tears. Obtain a copyright to protect your original works while leaving a lasting legacy.
Copyright Costs & Fees
Copyright costs and fees will vary according to the type of copyright you’re filing. The method used to file your application will affect it as well. Other elements, such as multiple authors, made for hire, multiple works, and different claimants, are also variables that change the cost.
Here is an outline of copyright application costs and fees:
- Electronic filings : Single authors, not for hire copyrights: $45. All others pay $65.
- Paper filings : Filing fees are $125.
You’ll also want to factor in the costs of hiring intellectual property lawyers. They typically charge between $250 and $400 per hour. It’s not a complicated process, but there are some questions on the application form that will necessitate some research.
If you’ve never filed a copyright before, professional help has advantages. Legal mistakes can result in additional delays. Many lawyers will prepare a copyright application for a flat fee.
Others will charge by the hour, but most should be able to give you an estimate of the total cost.
Prepare to provide your lawyer with the documents and other information they need to complete the application form quickly. Staying organized and providing as much information as possible can help you save money on administration costs.
Here’s the Copyright.gov web page about copyright costs & fees.
How Long Does It Take to File for a Copyright?
The registration of a copyright takes about three months on average. When you submit a copyright application, you will receive an email confirming that it has been received. However, some IP owners report the process taking up to several years to complete.
The amount of time it takes you to receive a copyright depends upon your specific situation.
On the other hand, basic copyright protection automatically triggers when you create an original work. The date the US Copyright Office receives the completed application and appropriate fees, your copyright registration becomes effective.
Who Can File for a Copyright?
Any owner of an original work can file for a copyright. However, it would be best if you determined that you’re the bonafide owner by performing your due diligence first. Conduct a copyright registration search before copyrighting to avoid legal problems.
If you have questions about filing for a copyright, always speak with intellectual property lawyers. They’ll help you through the process while answering your questions along the way.
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