How to Get Your Writing Copyrighted

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From the moment you write a short story, novel or poem, the work is copyrighted under U.S. copyright law. However, to protect your writing from being used without permission or misrepresented as someone else's work, it is advisable to register it with the U.S. Copyright Office. Your writing can be copyrighted whether or not it has been published. The U.S. Copyright Office only requires a few pieces of information as well as a registration fee and a copy of your writing.

Complete your work. The U.S. Copyright Office will issue a copyright for what it considers to be your final work. Any major changes will require you to get another copyright.

Visit the U.S. Copyright Office website (see Resources) to electronically complete your copyright registration. According to the office, electronic submittal is the preferred route for copywriting literary work.

Click "Registration" in the main toolbar. On the new page, click "Electronic Copyright Office" at the bottom of the page. Review the privacy and security information and select "Continue to eCO."

Create an account by selecting the "If you are a new user, click here to register" link on the left side of the page. Fill out your personal information and choose a username and password.

Click "Register a New Claim" from the left-hand menu, then "Start Registration." Select "Literary Work" under the "Type of Work" drop-down menu. Complete the application by entering information on the title, author, claims and rights and permissions. Certify the application, review it and click "Add to cart." Click "Checkout" to pay the nonrefundable fee.

Upload an electronic copy of your work. Submit one copy if the work is unpublished and two if it is published. You will receive email confirmation of your submittal.


  • Click "Forms" from the homepage of the U.S. Copyright Office website to complete the fill-in form instead. Click "Form CO" under "Registration with Fill-in Form CO." Adobe Acrobat Reader is necessary to read and complete the form. Complete and sign the application. Make a copy for yourself. Package one copy of the application in a single envelope along with your application fee and one to two copies of your writing. Mail to the U.S. Copyright Office. Mailed applications do not receive confirmations.



About the Author

Based in Omaha, Neb., Amy Adkins has been a professional writer and editor since 2001. She writes primarily on the topic of health and health care and has experience in marketing communications, public relations, corporate communication and technical writing. She received her Master of Arts degree in communication from the University of Nebraska-Omaha.