How to Get My Poem Copyright Protected

By Larissa Bodniowycz, J.D.

How to Get My Poem Copyright Protected

By Larissa Bodniowycz, J.D.

In the United States, a poem is a piece of original writing that receives copyright protection as soon as the author writes it down. Registering the copyright expands the scope of protection and remedies for infringement.

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Automatic Copyright Protection

A copyright is an intellectual protection right granted to creators of original works, including poems. The holder of the copyright has the exclusive right to utilize and reproduce their copyrighted work for a set number of years, usually the length of the creator's life plus 70 years.

Under current U.S. law, the author of the creative work automatically obtains protection for their work once it exists in a fixed format or is published. Authors of poems do not need to write "copyright," use the copyright symbol (©), or take any other special action to obtain a copyright in their poem.

Benefits of Registering a Copyright

Although not required, an author of a written work, such as a poem, can register their copyright with the United States Copyright Office for a fee. Registration provides public notice to the author's claim of ownership of the work.

Registering a copyright in a work makes it easier and more financially beneficial to enforce the copyright. For example, only registered copyright owners can sue in court. The registration serves as strong evidence of the validity of the claim to a copyright. Additionally, if the copyright registration occurs within three months of the poem's first publication, the copyright owner can recover their attorneys' fees from the copyright infringer and can obtain monetary damages without having to prove financial losses.

Steps to Copyright a Poem

You can register a poem in the United States by following these steps independently or with the help of an experienced online legal services provider.

1. Complete the registration application.

You can complete the application for copyright registration through the U.S. Copyright Office's Registration Portal. You must provide the following information for the application: type of work, title of work, author's name, claimant of the copyright, previous registrations (if any), special handling instructions (if any), and contact information. The type of work for poems is "literary work." You can also submit copyright registrations by mail, but the process takes longer.

2. Pay the filing fee.

You need to pay the filing fee for your copyright application at the end of the online application or by submitting payment with your mailed-in application. Review the Fee List to determine the required payment.

3. Submit copies.

Submit one copy of your poem to the U.S. Copyright Office if it has been published and two if it has not been published. In most cases, you can submit the required copies electronically, which saves mailing costs and helps expedite the application process.

Foreign Copyrights

Copyright laws in different countries vary. Currently, there is no single, universal copyright application for protection in all countries. However, due to a series of treaties, most notably the Berne Convention, a number of foreign countries must provide U.S. copyright holders with the same protection that they afford to citizens who are copyright holders.

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.