File Copyright

Clients Rate Lawyers on our Platform 4.9/5 Stars
based on 2,003 reviews

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
  • Software
  • Architectural designs
  • Photographs
  • Videos
  • 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.

Meet some lawyers on our platform

Daehoon P.

45 projects on CC
View Profile

Samuel R.

20 projects on CC
View Profile

Nicholas V.

5 projects on CC
View Profile

Craig Y.

5 projects on CC
View Profile

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 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:

  • Painters
  • Producers
  • Songwriters
  • Sculptors
  • Furniture designers
  • Artists
  • Musicians
  • Singers
  • Authors
  • Poets
  • Writers
  • Architects
  • Bloggers
  • Software engineers
  • Choreographers
  • 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.

Get Free Bids to Compare

Leverage our network of lawyers, request free bids, and find the right lawyer for the job.

Get Bids Now

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 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.

Post a project in ContractsCounsel’s marketplace to get flat fee bids from IP lawyers to handle your project. All lawyers are vetted by our team and peer reviewed for you to explore before hiring.

Meet some of our File Copyright Lawyers

View Jarrett
Member Since:
October 14, 2020

Jarrett S.

Startup Attorney
Free Consultation
Get Free Proposal
Marietta, Georgia
14 Yrs Experience
Licensed in GA
Emory University School of Law

I work with early stage startups (in Georgia and internationally) with their formation, contract, patent and investment needs.

View Benjamin
Member Since:
October 26, 2020

Benjamin M.

Free Consultation
Get Free Proposal
Atlanta, GA
10 Yrs Experience
Licensed in GA
Georgia State University

Experienced Attorney focused on transactional law, payments processing, banking and finance law, and working with fintech companies with a demonstrated history of driving successful negotiations in technology sourcing and transactions and strong understanding of government contracts and the procurement process

View Melissa
Member Since:
October 26, 2020

Melissa L.

Free Consultation
Get Free Proposal
Des Moines, IA
14 Yrs Experience
Licensed in IA
City University School of Law

Seasoned negotiator, mediator, and attorney providing premier legal advice, services, and representation with backgrounds in education, healthcare, and the restaurant and manufacturing industries

View Ross
Member Since:
October 27, 2020

Ross F.

Managing Partner
Free Consultation
Get Free Proposal
Bedford, New Hampshire
11 Yrs Experience
Licensed in MA, NH
University of Arizona

I am an experienced technology contracts counsel that has worked with companies that are one-person startups, publicly-traded international corporations, and every size in between. I believe legal counsel should act as a seatbelt and an airbag, not a brake pedal!

View Annais
Member Since:
October 27, 2020

Annais N.

Free Consultation
Get Free Proposal
Miami, FL
9 Yrs Experience
Licensed in FL, LA, MD
Loyola University New Orleans College of Law

Attorney (FL, LA, MD) | Commercial Real Estate Attorney and previous Closing Manager (Driving Growth from $10M to $50M+/month).

View John
Member Since:
November 10, 2020

John H.

Free Consultation
Get Free Proposal
Mobile, AL
11 Yrs Experience
Licensed in AL
Thomas Goode Jones School of Law

John Daniel "J.D." Hawke is an experienced attorney with a law practice in Mobile, Alabama. He was born in Fairhope, Alabama and after earning his undergraduate degree at Auburn University, he received a law degree from Thomas Goode Jones School of Law in 2010. After law school, he formed the Law Office of J.D. Hawke LLC and over the last decade he has fought incredibly hard for each and everyone of his clients. His practice focuses on representing people facing criminal charges and clients dealing with family law matters. In addition to criminal defense and domestic relations cases, he also regularly handles contract disputes, personal injury cases, small business issues, landlord/tenant disputes, document drafting, and estate planning. He is licensed to practice law in the State of Alabama and the United States District Court for the Southern District of Alabama.

View Thomas
Member Since:
October 30, 2020

Thomas C.

Free Consultation
Get Free Proposal
Denver, CO
9 Yrs Experience
Licensed in CO
University of Colorado Law School

Thomas Codevilla is Partner at SK&S Law Group where he focuses on Data Privacy, Security, Commercial Contracts, Corporate Finance, and Intellectual Property. Read more at Thomas’s clients range from startups to large enterprises. He specializes in working with businesses to build risk-based data privacy and security systems from the ground up. He has deep experience in GDPR, CCPA, COPPA, FERPA, CALOPPA, and other state privacy laws. He holds the CIPP/US and CIPP/E designations from the International Association of Privacy Professionals. Alongside his privacy practice he brings a decade of public and private transactional experience, including formations, financings, M&A, corporate governance, securities, intellectual property licensing, manufacturing, regulatory compliance, international distribution, China contracts, and software-as-a-service agreements.

View Michael
Member Since:
October 30, 2020

Michael B.

Free Consultation
Get Free Proposal
12 Yrs Experience
Licensed in IL, MN, WI
University of the Pacific

Michael has extensive experience advising companies from start-ups to established publicly-traded companies . He has represented businesses in a wide array of fields IT consulting, software solutions, web design/ development, financial services, SaaS, data storage, and others. Areas of expertise include contract drafting and negotiation, terms of use, business structuring and funding, company and employee policies, general transactional issues as well as licensing and regulatory compliance. His prior experience before entering private practice includes negotiating sales contracts for a Fortune 500 healthcare company, as well as regulatory compliance contracts for a publicly traded dental manufacturer. Mr. Brennan firmly believes that every business deserves a lawyer that is both responsive and dependable, and he strives to provide that type of service to every client.

View Lyndsey
Member Since:
October 30, 2020

Lyndsey G.

Free Consultation
Get Free Proposal
Roseville, MN
8 Yrs Experience
Licensed in MN
Mitchell Hamline College of Law

Attorney of 6 years with experience evaluating and drafting contracts, formation document, and policies and procedures in multiple industries. Expanded to estate planning last year.

View George
Member Since:
November 2, 2020

George O.

Managing Attorney
Free Consultation
Get Free Proposal
Houston, Texas
15 Yrs Experience
Licensed in TX
South Texas College of Law

George is a lifelong Houston resident. He graduated from St. Thomas High School and then Texas A&M University. He obtained his Doctor of Jurisprudence from South Texas College of Law in 2007. He is experienced in real estate, estate planning & probate, civil/commercial matters, personal, injury, business matters, bankruptcy, general counsel on-demand, and litigation. He is active in the community serving as past-president of the St. Thomas Alumni Board, a current member of the Dads Club Aquatic Center Board of Directors, current member of the Dickinson Little Italy Festival of Galveston County Board of Directors, and former PTO President for Briarmeadow Charter School.

View Ramsey
Member Since:
November 3, 2020

Ramsey T.

Founding Partner
Free Consultation
Get Free Proposal
New York
25 Yrs Experience
Licensed in NY
William and Mary

My clients are often small and medium size technology companies, from the "idea" stage to clients who may have raised a round or three of capital and need to clean up a messy cap table. I help with all legal matters related to growth that keep founders up at night - hiring people, allocating equity, dealing with shareholders and investors, client negotiations and early litigation counseling (before you need a litigator). I've seen a lot, and because I run my own business, I understand the concerns that keep you up at night. I’ve been through, both on my own and through other clients, the “teething” pains that will inevitably arise as you scale-up – and I’m here to help you. I have over 20 years international experience devising and implementing robust corporate legal strategies and governance for large multinationals. I now focus on start-ups and early/medium stage technology companies to enable a sound legal foundation for your successful business operations. Many of my clients are international with US based holding companies or presences. My 17 years abroad helps me "translate" between different regimes and even enabling Civil and Common Law lawyers to come together. Regularly, I handle early stage financings including Convertible Notes, Seed and Series A/B financings; commercial and technology contracts; international transactions; tax; mergers and acquisitions.

Find the best lawyer for your project

Browse Lawyers Now

Want to speak to someone?

Get in touch below and we will schedule a time to connect!

Request a call