A Registered Copyright is a valuable piece of intellectual property.
What is a Copyright?
A copyright is a legal device that gives the holder the right to decide how, who, and when the copyrighted content is used. There are two types of copyright: common law and registered. The common law copyright is automatic. That means when a person creates a piece of original content, he or she is automatically given a copyright over that content. A registered copyright must be registered with the US Copyright Office. It costs a little time and money to complete. However, a registered copyright provides significantly more protections.
Why Would you Want a Registered Copyright?
A registered copyright has many advantages. First, a registered copyright comes with additional statutory damages. For example, the intention theft of a person’s copyright can result in upwards of $150,000 in damage. Second, the registration creates a presumption that the owner is the first to create the content. After it is registered, it is a harder standard to rebut the owner’s rights. For example, if a person registers and another comes forward a year later claiming the copyright belongs to them, the filer has the presumption of ownership. Third, unregistered copyrights do not come with awards of attorney fees. Enforcing your copyright can be expensive. Therefore, this can sometimes be the most important perk.
Where do you Register a Copyright?
You register your copyright at https://www.copyright.gov/registration/. If you have an account, log in. If you don’t, setup a free account.
Types of Registration
There are only a few types of registrations available through the copyright.gov website. The Standard Application is the most common registration type. It works for most new applications. For example, you can use this for audio CDs, textbooks, individual songs, and books of artwork. Register a Group of Photographs is another common registration type. In order to use this type, your photographs must be published together. If not, they’re separate copyright filings. This type makes for cheaper registration of a large quantity of photographs at once. Register One Work by One Author is the basic registration. If applicable, it is the cheapest option. Be sure to read the disclaimer on the first page to ensure it is applicable to your work. For the rest of this article, we will assume you\’re using the standard application.
Type of Work
The next page asks for the type of work. There are six categories. Each category has a detailed description with links when you select it from the drop down menu. Additionally, Copyright.gov has an enormous amount of resources to help classify your work. We won’t go in depth into any of these to save space in this blog.
Literary Work is the most common type we work with. Primarily, it is written works in a single issue.
Works of the Visual Arts includes non-video graphical or pictorial works.
“Sound Recordings are works that result from the fixation of a series of musical, spoken or other sounds.”
Works of the Performing Arts are those live-action, choreographed, or otherwise moving pictorial art. They can include or exclude sound recordings in the work itself.
Motion Pictures are series of images, with or without sound, place in an intentional succession. These are movies and videos.
Audiovisual Works are similar to Motion Pictures. However, they rely on the use of a machine or device to display them such as videogames and PowerPoint presentations.
Many of these types of works blend together or overlap. However, you can usually find the answer you’re looking for on Copyright.gov.
Once you’re in the application, each stage is easy. The first stage asks you to add the title to the piece. Click on ‘New’ and add the title. When you’re done with a stage, you click ‘Continue’ to move on to the next.
This stage asks for the publication or completion date. If your piece has not been published, you would answer no and complete only the completion portions. Otherwise, you should fill out all of the starred portions and click ‘continue’. You should notice the left hand side has a table that denotes what stage you’re on and what stages are complete.
This stage wants you to enter the author’s information. There can be more than one author and your piece can be work made for hire. However, we’re going to assume you have only one for this blog. Fun Fact: You can have anonymous or pseudonym authors. In this section, you will also list what the particular author is claiming to have created.
The claimant is often the author. The claimant is whoever is claiming the right to enforce the copyright. If it is not the author, you have to include a transfer statement.
Limitation of Claim
If there’s anything in the work that is not owned by the claimant, this section allows you to put those limitations in place. For example, if you’re registering a book, but don’t have ownership over the pictures in the book, this is where you make that known. Additionally, you can exclude any portions of the claim that were previously registered.
Rights & Permissions
A lot of these sections have the same questions. I think of the Rights & Permissions section as the publicly facing contact information. It is used in case anyone outside the Copyright Office wishes to contact you regarding the use of your content.
On the other hand, the correspondent section is the contact information for someone at the Copyright Office to use in case there are questions regarding the filing. Be sure to put an email address you check regularly. The Copyright Office is very pleasant to work with and they can walk you through any issues that may exist after your application has been submitted. The caveat here is that you have a limited time to respond. If you miss the window they give you, your application will be denied. Usually the window is thirty to forty-five days.
In this section, you will put in the mailing address for where the certificate will be sent when approved.
The Special Handling section exists in case you have a reason the application needs to be reviewed more promptly. For example, if you have pending litigation regarding the copyright, you qualify for special handling. The special handling fee is $850 or more, depending on your claim. Therefore, it is really only worth it in extreme circumstances.
On the Certification stage, you must certify to the statement they make. If you’re the author and have not given away your rights to anyone, you should be fine here.
Review Submission for Registered Copyright
Finally, you get to the stage where you review the information you’ve already provided. If it is all correct, click “Add to Cart,” pay, and then upload the digital copy of your work. Some submissions require a mailed in physical copy. If there is no digital copy, or you don’t qualify to submit a digital copy, you can download the submission label to be included with your mailed in content. Additionally, if your work is already published in a physical medium, you will need to submit a physical copy of your work in addition to the digital upload.
If you would like any help registering your copyright, please feel free to contact us using the form below. Additionally, we can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 919-912-9640.