Copyright is the exclusive right to copy, distribute or adapt a creative work. This right can belong to the artist who created the work, the company that commissioned the work, or the buyer or licensee of the rights to a work. The person or entity that caused the work to be created automatically gains the copyright to it the moment the work is committed to a fixed medium. However, it is only upon registering the work with the U.S. Copyright Office that the rights holder gains the ability to sue another party for infringement.
Fill out an electronic copyright application using the U.S. Copyright Office's eCO system (see References). Click the "Login to eCO" link and register as a new user. The information requested through the online system is the same as a paper filing. Make sure to list the LLC as the owner of the work if you want the registration to appear in the name of the business and not in the name of an individual.
Read More: How to Copyright Pictures
Download Form CO and fill it out on your computer if you don't want to use the eCO system. Form CO is the paper equivalent of the electronic application. It is available on the eCO website in the "Registration with Fill-In Form CO" section (see Resources). The form must be completed on a computer and will print with a series of barcodes that will streamline the processing of the registration. Both eCO and Form CO require a description of the work being registered and when it was first published; the name and address of the author and the copyright claimant; any limit to the registration; the name and address of the people to contact about the copyright or the application; and the signature of the person filing the application, certifying the veracity of the statements made.
Call the Copyright Office and request the original forms TX, VA, PA, SR or SE, if you want to use the old copyright applications. Prior to the adoption of eCO and Form CO, there were five separate copyright applications that corresponded to the type of work being registered. If you have filed copyright applications in the past and would prefer to use the old format, you can still do so. However, the old forms are not available on online.
Attach copies of the creative work to the application. You can upload a copy of the work electronically, provided it is in an acceptable file format. If the work cannot be uploaded, the system will print a unique label to use to mail the work to the Copyright Office. The paper applications require a different number of copies, depending on the type of work, but generally, you have to attach two copies of the best published version of the work, or one copy if the work is unpublished.
File the application with the Copyright Office with the appropriate filing fee. An eCO filing is less expensive than filing by Form CO, and Form CO is less expensive than using the old forms. The application fee is nonrefundable even if your application is ultimately rejected. The processing time differs depending on which filing method is used; however, eCO allows you to track the status of the application. Once the application is processed, the Copyright Office will mail out a certificate of registration to the address indicated in the application.
Use a notice of copyright symbol with all of your work, even if you haven’t yet registered it. Using the symbol precludes a defense of innocent infringement.
Registering your work within three months of publication entitles you to statutory damages in case of infringement, which is an important right when actual damages are hard to prove.
- Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images