You’ve created an original work and you’re ready to copyright it. It’s time to apply for copyright registration.
Stop right there!
Before you apply for copyright registration, there are some very important things that you need to consider and some information that you need to have on hand.
To help you save time and reduce frustration when you apply for copyright registration, here is an overview of four things you need to do first:
1. Make Sure Your Work Can and Should be Protected
Review your original works to ensure they meet the requirements for federal copyright protection. If they do, then you need to decide whether or not your work should be protected.
U.S. copyright law gives you a bundle of five exclusive rights. Specifically, the owner of a copyright has the legal right to exclude others from the following activities:
- Copying an original work
- Distributing an original work
- Making derivatives of an original work
- Publicly performing an original work
- Publicly displaying an original work
Review the work you want to protect with a copyright registration and consider its commercial value as well as the potential harm that might come if it is misappropriated. If the harm would be sufficient to get your attention and merit pursuing, then the underlying work is a good candidate for formal copyright protection.
The benefit of copyright registration is that it gives you the ability to enforce your legal rights which are granted upon creation of an original work of authorship. The law doesn’t require you to register your copyrights to receive legal protection, but it does require you to register your copyrights if you want to enforce that protection.
2. Identify Each Unique Work
Next, you need to organize your creative work. Each individual work of authorship must be registered independently. For example, if you delivered a speech simultaneously with a PowerPoint presentation, they are considered separate works and must be in completely separate copyright applications to be registered. The text of your speech is one work, and the slides are another work.
3. Organize Your Work to Streamline the Copyright Application Process
You can begin organizing your work by separating it into categories. For example, if you deliver speeches and educational lectures, you could separate your content into categories like educational curricula for schools, corporate workshops, and so on. This will make it easier to distinguish unique works from newer versions of older works, which is very important as you write your copyright applications.
This is an area where it helps to get advice from an intellectual property attorney, because completing your copyright applications correctly the first time will save you a lot of time and money.
4. Gather the Information You Need to Complete the Application
To make the application process more efficient, you need to gather some information first. For each application, you’ll need to identify, at minimum, the following information:
Every work must be titled. This is how the U.S. Copyright Office indexes copyright registrations, so be sure to give your work a title.
Each person who contributed to the work must be identified as an author. For example, if a designer, staff member, or another person created the PowerPoint slides for your lecture, you need to get his or her name, nationality, and date of birth for the copyright application.
Nature of Authorship
You need to identify who created what in your work. For example, who created the text, images, and so on? Not only do you have to identify all of the authors, but you also have to identify what they created.
The creation date is when the version of the work being registered was completed. In the lecture example, the date the speech was written would be its creation date. If other versions of the work were previously completed, you need to have that information on hand as well when you complete your copyright application.
The publication date is when the version of the work being registered was distributed to the public or offered to be distributed for the purpose of further distribution, public performance, or public display.
You need to identify the country of publication on the copyright application.
You need to determine who the legal owner of the copyright is. This could be you, your company, or another person or entity. Be sure to complete any necessary ownership transfers before you submit your copyright application!
Deposit Copy of the Work
You need to submit an electronic copy (called the deposit copy) of each work to the Copyright Office at the time you file each application. This copy represents the work being protected. If litigation ever becomes necessary in the future, the court will look at the deposit copy as evidence of the work being infringed, so you need to get this copy right!
Copyright registration is very important, but you need to fill out your copyright application correctly to get the full protection you’re entitled to by law. One mistake could cause big problems.