How Long Does It Take for Your Work to Get Copyrighted?

By Cindy Hill

Copyright law protects the intellectual property rights of people who develop original creative works, such as art, literature and music. Copyright gives the creators of original works the exclusive right to profit from their work for a set amount of time, usually the life of the creator plus 70 years. A basic level of copyright protection arises automatically when a work is created. Enhanced protection and enforcement powers can be obtained through copyright registration.

Copyright law protects the intellectual property rights of people who develop original creative works, such as art, literature and music. Copyright gives the creators of original works the exclusive right to profit from their work for a set amount of time, usually the life of the creator plus 70 years. A basic level of copyright protection arises automatically when a work is created. Enhanced protection and enforcement powers can be obtained through copyright registration.

Automatic Protection

Copyright protection arises automatically, as soon as a creative work becomes fixed in a tangible form, for example, on a piece of paper, model or digital file. An original work is copyrighted as soon as it takes form beyond an intangible idea. No particular copyright notice, publication, paperwork or filing is necessary to bring copyright into being regarding an original work. All that is required is that the work be of sufficient original content to qualify as copyrightable, and that threshold is extremely low. Any level of original creative expression will meet the copyright statute requirements for a copyrightable work.

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Benefits of Registration

Registration of copyright creates a public record of the copyrighted work and publicly identifies the copyright holder. A copyright holder may not bring suit for copyright infringement of works originating in the U.S. until he has registered the work with the U.S. Copyright Office; prompt registration after a work is created also permits copyright holders to seek attorneys fees and statutory damages in copyright infringement lawsuits.

Electronic and Paper Registration

Using the U.S. Copyright Office's online electronic registration system will result in registration being completed in approximately three months. The average processing time for hard-copy registrations is 10 months. All materials included with a paper registration must be bundled into a single package and care must be taken to insure the materials are not damaged in shipping, which can add to the costs of registration. Submitting a correct and properly filled out application will help to speed up approval. An online legal document preparer can assist you with this process.

Effective Date

Copyright registration is effective on the date the U.S. Copyright Office receives the completed application and appropriate fees. When you file for copyright electronically, you will receive an email confirming your application has been received. If you submit a paper registration, you will not receive receipt confirmation from the U.S. Copyright Office. Therefore, it's advisable to ship your paper registration using a carrier that provides a record of delivery, to document the effective date of registration.

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Copyright Registration Advantages & Disadvantages

References

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Copyright Law Policies

Copyright protects an author’s original literary, artistic, and other intellectual work. Either individuals or businesses may be considered “authors” under U.S. copyright law. Authors are granted exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute, perform and display their work, as well as create derivative works based on the original. Proactive copyright policies can ensure these rights are protected and enforced effectively.

How to Get a Play Copyrighted

A play qualifies for copyright protection, typically as a literary work and performing art. However, several broad copyright categories apply to plays, such as literary work, dramatic work, choreographed work, musical compositions, sound recordings, motion pictures, pictorial, graphic and sculptural work and even architectural work. The playwright automatically secures basic copyright in the script once it's fixed in a tangible form. These include paper manuscripts, electronic document files, recorded live performances and published short or full length plays. A playwright should also apply for federal copyright registration as soon as possible. This optional registration provides many benefits, including exclusive ownership and publication rights of a play.

How to Get Copyrights

Copyright protects literary, artistic, musical and similar creative works from infringement by the unauthorized copying by others. The length of copyright protection depends on the type of work involved, but it can last for several decades, even beyond the death of the work's creator. While U.S. law automatically grants copyright protection to any work fixed in a tangible medium, it is wise to register a copyright in order to gain the full scope of legal protections available to copyright holders.

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