How to Register My LLC Copyright

By Edward A. Haman, J.D.

How to Register My LLC Copyright

By Edward A. Haman, J.D.

If you are operating a limited liability company (LLC), your business may create certain types of works that are subject to copyright protection. The best way to secure your LLC copyright is with copyright registration.

artists in studio looking at laptop

What May Be Copyrighted

Only certain types of original works may be copyrighted. Generally, copyright protection is available for various written and artistic works, such as:

  • Literary works, both fiction and nonfiction (including emails and website content you write)
  • Sound recordings
  • Musical works, including musical scores and lyrics
  • Dramatic works, such as plays, including music
  • Motion pictures, including those shown at movie theaters, on television (regardless of whether broadcast over the air, by cable, or by satellite), or over the internet
  • Other video recordings
  • Dance choreography
  • Visual art works, such as paintings, drawings, and sculptures
  • Architectural works
  • Computer code

Works must be in some type of tangible form that is acceptable under copyright laws. A mere idea cannot be copyrighted, nor can something that is considered a system, concept, or principle.

Copyright Protection

A work is copyrighted the moment it is created. If someone uses your copyrighted work without your permission, you can bring a lawsuit against the infringing party. However, this will require proving that you own the copyrights.

To help prove a copyright, place a copyright notice on all copies of your work and register the copyright. Registration is not required; however, if someone illegally copies your work, you may have a more difficult time proving your copyright in court if it is not registered with the United States Copyright Office.

You cannot copyright an LLC itself—the name of an LLC is not copyrightable. If you are interested in protecting the name of your company—or certain words, phrases, or images that are used to identify your company—you will need to do so by registering a trademark or service mark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

LLCs and Copyright Ownership

An LLC, like a corporation or individual person, may own a copyright. However, copyrightable works are actually created by one or more individuals, not by business entities. In the case of an LLC, copyrightable works will be created by individuals who are owners, employees, or independent contractors of the LLC.

Someone with an ownership interest in an LLC is called a member. Usually an LLC member will have no problem claiming a copyright for a work, especially if it is a single-member LLC. However, it would be a good idea to include a provision in the LLC operating agreement that all copyrightable works created by a member are property of the LLC. If you already have an operating agreement, this can be accomplished by either a separate agreement between the LLC and a member who creates a copyrightable work, or by amending the operating agreement.

Generally, an LLC can own a copyright in a work that is created by an LLC employee in the employee's normal scope of employment. However, to avoid potential disputes, it would be a good idea to have employees sign an employment agreement acknowledging that any copyrightable works produced by the employee in the normal scope of employment will be property of the LLC.

Similarly, in the case of an independent contractor, include in their contract a written agreement providing that copyrightable works produced by the independent contractor will be property of the LLC.

LLC Copyright Registration

Copyright applications may be filed online with the U.S. Copyright Office, or by submitting a completed paper application. Online filing is usually faster. The specific form required, as well as the filing fee, will vary depending upon the nature and number of works to be copyrighted. Information on the Copyright Office website will help you determine which form to use and instructions for completing the form.

The process to register LLC-owned copyrights is the same as for registering a copyright owned by an individual or any other type of entity. On the registration form you will list the full legal name of your LLC on the line for “Name of Author." This designates the LLC as owner of the copyright.

A copy of the work must also be submitted. This may vary, depending upon the nature of the work, but must be in what the Copyright Office considers a “tangible medium of expression."

Registration is effective on the date that your application and filing fee are received by the Copyright Office. If the content of the work changes, you will need to update the copyright. This can be especially important if you decide to copyright your LLC's website.

Whether an LLC needs to register a copyright, and the ease of the process, depend upon the nature of work created, as well as the nature of the business conducted by the LLC. A legal services provider may be valuable in helping protect your LLC copyrights

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.