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Copyright Registration FAQ

Copyright registration is the process of registering a creative work with the United States Copyright Office. Copyright protection provides creators exclusive rights to their original works.

This FindLaw Copyright Registration FAQ helps provide clarity on common copyright registration questions.

What is a copyright?

Copyright is a legal protection that gives creators of original works of authorship exclusive rights to use and distribute their work.

What is copyright infringement?

Copyright infringement occurs when someone uses, displays, distributes, or creates derivative works with the permission of a copyright owner.

A key advantage of copyright registration is if someone infringes on your work, you have a strong legal claim and can take legal action against those who infringe on their right. Legal actions may involve statutory damages and sending a cease-and-desist letter.

Do I need to register my work to have copyright protection?

Not necessarily. Copyright protection exists from the moment you create your work in a fixed form. However, if you want to bring a lawsuit for infringement, then you must have a federal copyright registration on your work.

Can I register multiple works together?

Yes! The U.S. Copyright Office has a group registration office. This Group Registration for Unpublished Works (GRUW) option allows creators to register up to ten unpublished works. You can submit all ten works on one application for a single filing fee. GRUW eligibility is available on the U.S. Copyright Office website. Websites cannot register with a GRUW application, but the photographs on the site can.

How long does the copyright registration process take?

The copyright registration process can vary depending on the accuracy of your application and if the Copyright Office has any inquiries about your application. The process usually takes about three months to approve an online registration and issue a certificate. If the application is by a paper form submission, then it can take around four months.

What are the copyright registration fees?

As of 2023, the standard copyright application fee is $65. The paper filing fee is $125. Please visit the U.S. Copyright Office fee page to see the most recent and updated fee charts.

How will I know if the U.S. Copyright Office received my application?

You will not receive an acknowledgment that your application has been received. The Office receives more than 600,000 applications annually. You will receive email confirmations of your completed steps in the application process.

If your application is in order, you will get a certificate of registration. This indicates registration of the work. You will receive the certificate in approximately five months.

If the Office must correspond with you or if further information is needed, it will take longer to process your application. You will receive a letter explaining why it has been rejected.

What is the status of my application?

The U.S. Copyright Office cannot provide free written information about the status of applications.

If you must have this information confirmed in writing, contact the Certifications and Documents Section at (202) 707-6787 or by email at copyinfo@loc.gov. This Section can provide the information upon payment of applicable fees. The minimum fee is $200 and the Office charges $200 an hour.

When is my registration effective?

Copyright registration is effective on the date that all the required elements (application, filing fee, and deposit) are received in acceptable form in the U.S. Copyright Office. This is the effective date regardless of the length of time it takes the Copyright Office to process the application and mail the certificate of registration.

You do not have to receive your certificate before you publish or produce your work, nor do you need permission from the Copyright Office to place a notice of copyright on your material.

How do I copyright my business name?

You don't! In general, business names are not copyrightable. Company names or brand names receive trademark protection instead. You can apply for federal trademark protection with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Having a registered trademark provides legal protection against infringers and helps protect your brand identity.

It is important to note that there are different types of trademarks. Get a trademark attorney to help you with the trademark application process.

Which application form do I use?

Online registration is the preferred method of copyright application, but the U.S. Copyright Office does offer hard copy application forms.

The types of application forms include:

Access and download forms from the Copyright Office Website.

How can I see a record of my copyright registrations?

Go to the U.S. Copyright Office Website public records page, click on "Search Copyright Records," and follow the instructions. Note: It may take two or three months after you receive your certificate for your registration to appear in these permanent files.

Need Legal Advice?

Copyright law is a niche area of law. Hiring an intellectual property attorney to help with the copyright registration process is highly advised. Visit FindLaw's attorney directory to find an IP attorney to help with the copyright application process. An IP attorney can help you with other intellectual property issues like trademark registration and patent applications.

As a small business owner or entrepreneur, you may have questions about other intellectual property rights. Visit FindLaw's Intellectual Property section to learn about other intellectual property rights: trademark rights, trade secrets, and patents.

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