How to Get a Copyright

Wondering how to get a copyright for a poem you wrote, or the short story you submitted to that magazine? Copyright protection affords valuable benefits for copyright holders, but it's important to know how to use it.

In theory, everything is copyrighted.
In theory, the moment you create a protected work it's covered by a copyright. People have no right to steal or use your work without your permission after the moment you create it. However, in practice, this can be difficult to enforce. Without a formal copyright registration, you may have a hard time pursuing your legal rights in court or establishing the existence of your copyright. Therefore, it's a good idea to register your copyright if you need all the protection that copyright law offers.

File a copyright registration online.
The easiest way to register your copyright is to file a copyright registration online. The US Copyright Office has an online copyright application process that you can complete from the comfort of your own home, at any time of the day or night. You'll need to pay a $35 fee for online copyright registration, but, after that, your work is protected. If you find that someone is infringing your copyright after you've registered it with the US Copyright Office, you're in a good position to file legal proceedings and take legal action to protect your copyright.

Complete the copyright application electronically, print and mail.
The second fastest way to register a copyright is to complete your copyright application electronically, print it and mail it. The US Copyright Office has an electronic form in PDF format that you can complete in Adobe Acrobat or Adobe Reader. This electronic form is called Form CO and is available from the US Copyright Office Web site. You simply type in the information in Adobe, print it and mail it, along with a $45 fee, to the address provided on the form.

Fill out paper forms and register by mail.
The third option for registering a copyright is to complete paper forms and register by mail. This is the least efficient option, as it takes the US Copyright Office longer to process these paper applications. Unlike the electronic registration options, different categories of works require different paper forms, so make sure you complete the correct paper forms when registering by mail.

The fee to register by mail with paper forms is $45, but this option takes longer than registering by mail with an electronically completed document. The US Copyright Office does not make these paper forms available online, so you'll need to request them from the office and they will mail them to you via regular United States Postal Service.

Some copyright applications must be completed by mail.
Certain types of copyright applications must be printed out and completed by mail. For a complete list of applications that you must print and register, consult the U.S. Copyright Office at: Make sure you follow the correct registration procedures to ensure you have full copyright protection.

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