Copyright Office: Information and Publications Section Library of Congress, Washington, DC 20559;
(202) 707-9100; Form TX (the copyright form for books), Circular R1 (Copyright Basics), and Circular
R2 (Publications of the Copyright Office)
Federal copyright can be registered on the Internet by going to:
Professor Tonya M. Evans
(Contact Professor Evans at Legal Write Publications, or; The information contained here is for general informational and
educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you need advice regarding a
specific legal matter, you should consult a lawyer as each case is fact-specific.)
How is copyright created?
If you have created an original literary or artistic work in some tangible form – in writing or on film or
tape or canvas, for example – then you don’t have to do anything. You automatically own a copyright in
your work.
When in the Writing Process Should I Register My Work?
The “lawyerly answer” is based on the benefits of timely registration defined in the Copyright Act: you
should register before your work is infringed and within three months of publication.
Additional guidelines:
Register your manuscript once completed
Register works (even if only a few chapters) that you are submitting on a regular basis, posting
on the Internet, or performing on a regular basis
Update your registration after a substantive change to your work
Register the final product
Within three months of publication
What rights do I have if I own a copyright?
Copyright is not one right but actually a bundle of rights. In general, the law gives a copyright owner the
exclusive right to do and to authorize others to do the following:
1. Copy the work
2. Prepare derivative works based on the original
3. Distribute copies of the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental,
lease, or lending
4. Publicly display
5. Publicly perform
What are examples of things that cannot be copyrighted?
Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the
way these things are expressed.
What’s a copyright notice and when should I use it?
To demonstrate to the world that you own your work, you should use a copyright notice (although you
are not required by law to use the notice). The notice should contain the copyright symbol (ex: ©), the
date, and the copyright owner’s name.
What’s copyright registration and do I need to register my work?
Registration of your copyright creates a public record of the facts and circumstances pertaining to it.
While registration is not necessary for your copyright to exist, You should register it for further
protection. The Copyright Act gives you certain advantages under the law if you do register your work.
File an infringement lawsuit
If registered before or within five years of publication, registration establishes sufficient (a/k/a
prima facie) evidence in court of the validity of the copyright and of the facts stated in the
registration certificate.
If you register within three months after publication of the work or prior to an infringement, the
burden of proof shifts to the defendant who is then required to prove that infringement did not
If registration is made within three months after publication of the work or prior to an
infringement, statutory damages and attorney fees will be available to the copyright owner in
court actions. Otherwise, only an award of actual damages and profits is available.
Registration allows the copyright owner to record the registration with the U.S. Customs Service
for protection against the importation of infringing copies.
What is the Poor Man’s Copyright and how can it protect my work?
The concept known as the poor man’s copyright says basically that you should mail yourself a copy of
your work and not open it in order to establish the date that your work existed in case you ever need to
defend your work or challenge a work you believe infringes on your rights. This, unfortunately, is a myth
that continues to be perpetuated even by established writers and it should no longer exist in the writing
world! The Poor Man’s Copyright does not offer any additional protection beyond that which
already exists once your idea is fixed and thus your work is created. Additionally it does not
constitute a registration of your copyright.
Registration is easy (no need for a lawyer) and inexpensive (as low as $35 if you register electronically
-- as of this presentation) – a small price to pay to preserve valuable rights. Consider it an insurance