Last Published: 7/7/2016

A copyright is a form of protection provided to the authors of "original works of authorship" including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works, both published and unpublished. A copyright protects the form of expression rather than the subject matter of the writing. The U.S. Copyright Office handles U.S. copyright registrations.

Owners of copyrighted works seeking protection in other countries should first determine the extent of protection available to works of foreign authors in that country. There is no such thing as an "international copyright" that will automatically protect an author's writings throughout the entire world. Protection against unauthorized use in a particular country depends, basically, on the national laws of that country. However, most countries do offer protection to foreign works under certain conditions, and these conditions have been greatly simplified by international copyright treaties and conventions. For further information and a list of countries that maintain copyright relations with the United States, read Circular 38a - International Copyright Relations of the United States.

If you need answers to specific copyright questions or want to know more about copyrights in general, please contact the U.S. Copyright Office or call (202) 707-5959.