Poetry is protected by copyright laws that cover various forms of literary works. According to the U.S. Copyright Office, individual poems may be copyrighted, or a collection of poems may be copyrighted as a single work. Copyright protections are the same whether the author registers multiple poems individually or as a collected work.
Creating a Copyrighted Poem
When a poem is written, a copyright is created for it, and the author may include a copyright mark ("c" in a circle) with the poem. The same is true for a collection of poetry: the author may use a copyright mark to govern the entire collection. However, it is difficult to defend a copyright without first registering the poem or collection with the U. S. Copyright Office.
Length, or Term, of Copyright
In the case of an individual copyright owner, the copyright is in effect for 70 years past the author's death. If a poem or collection of poems was commissioned by an individual or organization (such as a publishing company), the copyright is in effect for 95 years after the work was first published or 120 years after it was first created, whichever comes first.
Registering a Copyright Online
To register a copyright for a poem or collection of poems online, go to the electronic Copyright Office (eCO) section of copyright.gov, pay the appropriate fee and upload the poem or collection of poems in a standard document format, such as pdf, doc or txt.
Registering a Copyright by Mail
To register a copyright for a poem or collection of poems by mail, fill out Form TX or replacement Form CO, include the appropriate fee and send two copies of the work to:
Library of Congress Copyright Office 101 Independence Ave., SE Washington, DC 20559-6000