The Copyright Process

Copyright protection is available for any original work of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression.  While copyrights are frequently considered as protecting books, plays, music, movies and the like, protection is also available for photographs, computer programs, brochures, manuals, television commercials and similar works not usually considered to be artistic.  Regardless of the type of work, it must have a minimum level of creativity in order to be protected.  Certain works, such as forms, accounting sheets, recipes, and useful articles are not capable of being protected by copyright.  See 37 C.F.R. 202.1.  Indeed, even very artistic works may not be protected where the works serves a function that is not separable from the representation of the work.

Copyright Application

A copyright exists from the moment of creation.  Registration of the work through filing an application with the Copyright Office provides certain procedural and potential substantive benefits.  Depending upon the type of work, any one of various forms is required and also a filing fee.  The base fee is $35.00.  In order to complete the application you must include the title of the work, the nature of the work, identify the author, identify the dates of creation and publication, and provide a specimen of the work.  You should retain a copy of the specimen and of the application, as the Copyright Office typically destroys the specimens after a number of years, and thus it may be difficult to establish what was registered if you fail to retain a copy of the work as filed. 

Copyright Acceleration

The application process can take about a year or so, although that may be accelerated upon payment of a fee of  $300.00.  Once the completed application is received, the work will be reviewed to determine whether it has the minimum level of creativity requited for copyright and, if so, a registration certificate will be forwarded providing the copyright registration number.  

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