Last Published: 7/22/2016

The U.S. Copyright Office is responsible for registering copyright claims. The Register of Copyrights has responsibility for performing all administrative functions and duties contained in the U.S. Copyright Act, including the registration of copyright claims and the recordation of transfers and other documents pertaining to copyright. The Register of Copyrights is also responsible for advising the U.S. Congress and providing information and assistance to the Judiciary and Federal agencies. The Copyright Office provides expertise on U.S. and foreign copyright laws, multilateral treaties and bi-lateral agreements that are relevant to intellectual property protection.  Copyright is a form of protection provided under U.S. law to the authors of “original works of authorship”, including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works, for a fixed period of time. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works. Copyright is secured automatically when the work is created, which occurs when the work is fixed in a copy or phonorecord for the first time.

There are certain definite advantages to registering a copyright. Registration made before or within the first five years after publication provides prima facie evidence of the validity of the copyright and of the facts stated in the copyright certificate. Registration before infringement entitles a copyright owner who prevails in a copyright infringement action to elect statutory damages and, in the discretion of the court, to be awarded attorney’s fees. If a copyright owner registers within three months of publication, statutory damages and attorney’s fees will be available for any infringements occurring after publication. Registration is also a prerequisite to bring suit for infringement of the copyright in any “United States work,” as this term is defined in Section 101 of the Copyright Act.

To register a work:  submit a completed application form, a nonrefundable filing fee ($35 through the online Electronic Copyright Office, or $50 using the fill-in Form CO); and a nonreturnable copy or copies of the work to be registered. For more details, the Copyright Office website contains helpful information circulars and factsheets on a variety of topics, including: copyright basics, recordations of transfers and other documents, how to investigate the copyright status of a work, registration for various types of works including derivative works and online works, fair use of copyrighted works, and international copyright relations of the United States. Visit the U.S. Copyright Office's website to file electronically. For in-person assistance call the public information office: (202)707-3000 or speak with a copyright specialist: (202) 707-5959.

Official seal of the U.S. Copyright Office