How to Apply for a Copyright

by David Carnes
Attaching the copyright symbol to copies of your work will help deter infringement.

Attaching the copyright symbol to copies of your work will help deter infringement.

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Copyright law protects works of authorship, including art and software algorithms. To fully protect your work, you must create it and then register it with the U.S. Copyright Office. U.S. copyright law imposes both civil and criminal penalties against infringement. If you register your work, you can obtain damages of up to $150,000 per infringement without proving that the infringement caused you any economic damages. The procedure for creating and registering your copyright is straightforward and simple.

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Step 1

Reduce your work to tangible form: record a song, for example, or write down a story. As long as your work is original, it is entitled to copyright protection even if it is never published.

Step 2

Navigate to Form CO on the website of the U.S. Copyright Office (please see Reference 1). You can complete this form online.

Step 3

Complete Form CO. You must provide the title of the work, the type of work, the publication details (if it has been published) and the year of completion. You must also provide the full name of the author, the author's years of birth and death (if applicable), and the name and contact details of the copyright claimant if the claimant is not the author. You must also provide contact details that will allow people to request permission to use your work.

Step 4

Send Form CO, a digital copy of your work and a filing fee, $35 as of publication date, per work to the U.S. Copyright Office. You may also file your application by surface mail for a fee of $50 at publication date per work. The Copyright Office will mail you a copyright certificate.