How to Copyright Your Comic Creations

By Lee Hall, J.D.

How to Copyright Your Comic Creations

By Lee Hall, J.D.

Registration of copyright under the Copyright Act covers the tangible attributes of your comics, encompassing the original design work and the writing. Registration can apply to pieces of visual art, literary work, or both. Although copyright is inherent in your creative work, registration with the U.S. Copyright Office makes it enforceable in court under the Copyright Act. It notifies the public that you not only have exclusive rights in your creative work, but that you stand ready to stop anyone else from infringing on these rights.

Man drawing digitally at desk

For an overview of how registration covers your comic, refer to the U.S. Copyright Office's Circulars. The first one, Copyright Basics, supplies a helpful synopsis of registration procedures.

The Online Registration Process

The U.S. Copyright Office provides an Electronic Copyright Office (eCO) capable of accepting images. This method of registration offers secure and convenient online processing:

  1. Open an eCO account and follow the prompts on the homepage.
  2. Submit the required description of the comic strip, book, or other creation, including the comic's title and any previously used titles. Specify what material is new if your submission is a variant of a previous work.
  3. Specify the year of creation and earliest date of publication (public display, distribution, or sale). Specify the publication date, month, year, and place.
  4. Name each copyright claimant. Declare whether you claim ownership of the comic as its author, or if it is a work for hire. If the comic is a work for hire, state how the copyright transferred to the current owner.
  5. Electronically certify and submit the application, plus the nonrefundable registration fee.
  6. Watch for a message confirming that the eCO received the submission of a copy of your work, called a "deposit."

You can track your application online using the case number assigned to you from the eCO.

Steps Specific to Postal Registration

The U.S. Copyright Office can, upon request, send an application form by mail. You may receive up to two copies of any particular blank form by postal mail. Alternatively, you can find copyright registration forms on the main Copyright Office website. To register by mail, follow these steps:

  1. Find fill-in versions of Form VA (used to register a visual artwork), Form TX (used to protect literary works), or Form CON (a continuation sheet for paper applications) at the Copyright Office website. Fill in the form and print it out when complete.
  2. Put your hand-signed form together with a deposit of your original work and a check or money order.
  3. Mail two copies of your comic on paper if published in the United States, or one copy if your creation is part of a collective yet unpublished work or one first published abroad, to the address that appears in the form's instructions.
  4. Wait for your registration certificate to arrive by mail.

Even in the age of online registration, note that the Library of Congress may need you to send a hard copy, "best edition," of your creation. Note further that your deposits and related submissions, even in denied cases, become property of the government.

Keep copies of all the items you submit for copyright. After you establish an online account, you can submit applications and fees using your saved details. This is an excellent method for maintaining rights over your comic creations on a regular basis.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.