How to Get Something Copyrighted

By Contributing Writer

Copyrighting your written material is an easy way to protect your intellectual property. The following will describe to you exaclty how to obtain a copyright for anything you've written, be it a book, play or piece of music.

How to Get Something Copyrighted

Determine whether or not you have a piece of material that can be copyrighted. The United States Copyright office will copyright any work created by you and for you that has been recorded in some kind of tangible form, such as a written notation of dance choreography or an audio recording of a speech. The obvious forms of material most often copyrighted are manuscripts of books, plays, film scripts and poetry. However, music can be copyrighted as well. It must be recorded in some way and presented with any accompanying lyrics that you wish to have copyrighted as well. Things that cannot be copyrighted are works that you have made for hire for your employer. If you have been hired by another entity to create a piece or work, and you are compensated for that piece, you have created that piece as a "work for hire," and you do not have the right to a copyright on that piece. Also, ideas or slogans are not copyrightable. For many of these types of things, a patent is more applicable.

Get your material copyrighted. To copyright any material that you have created, you must register it with the copyright office at the Library of Congress. You must include three items in your packet that you send to the Library of Congress: 1) a completed application, 2) a filing fee for the application and 3) a copy of the work being registered. There are different applications for different media. For a complete list of the applications, visit the Copyright office's Web site (see Resources below). The basic filing fee for a new work is $45. It must be remitted in check, money order or cashier's check. No cash.A complete copy of the work you are copyrighting must be included. If it exists only in recording, a complete recording of it in some form must be included, be it on audio cassette, DAT tape or CD. All three of these things must be sent together to:Library of CongressCopyright Office101 Independence Avenue, SEWashington, DC 20559-6000

Finding other ways to protect your intellectual property. No other protection for your intellectual property is as binding and final as a copyright (a copyright lasts from the moment you copyright the material, until 70 years after your death). For screenplays, however, the Writer's Guild of America does offer its own registration that has a limited 10-year protection. It costs $22 and is for the sole purpose of protecting screenplays and teleplays only, but it's effectiveness for that decade is comparable to a copyright.

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