A copyright is a form of intellectual property consisting of a set of exclusive rights granted by a sovereign state to an author of a creative work, such as a novel, musical composition or recording, graphic art work or computer program. A copyright protects aspects of the work that are creative and expressive, but not abstract ideas underlying the work.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I obtain a copyright?
Any creative work is automatically protected internatonally under copyright law as soon as it is created and fixed in a medium of expression (e.g. paper, CD, DVD or com-puter storage). A copyright on a work can be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office for a low fee in most cases.
Is registering a copyright on my work necessary?
No, not necessarily, although copyright registration is a mandatory prerequisite filing a copyright infringement suit in federal court.
Furthermore, for a valuable work, a copyright registration is highly recommended. The registration puts the public on notice you will defend your copyrights, and it serves as good evidence of the date of the creation of the work.
What does a copyright registration cost?
U.S. government fees to file an application for a copyright registration and have it examined are $35-$65 per work or collection of works. Additional fees may be appli-cable to correct or expedite the registration.
Legal fees for filing a copyright registration application vary from about $200 to $500, depending on the size and complexity of the work being registered.
Is it necessary to perform searches for similar copyrights be-fore filing a copyright registration application?
No. So long as a work is a creation of an author (e.g. not a copy from someone else) and is minimally creative, it doesn't matter how similar it is to other works.
How long will it take?
A registration application, if allowed, will issue in 3 to 6 months. While there is never a guarantee a copyright will be allowed, most are. For a more detailed description of the copyright process, see the Copyright Office's FAQ.