How to Get a Cartoon Character Copyrighted

By Judith Evans

A copyright gives the owner exclusive rights in an original creative work. Although copyright protection automatically exists for a cartoon character depicted in a tangible form, registration with the U.S. Copyright Office provides public notice of copyright and a basis for enforcement of your rights under the U.S. Copyright Act. Online copyright registration has advantages, such as a lower filing fee and faster processing than registration by mail. Copyright law does not protect the name, general theme or other intangible attributes of a cartoon character, but federal trademark, state and common law may protect these attributes.

Register Online

Step 1

Depict your cartoon character in a fixed form, such as a drawing. Upload an image of the drawing onto your computer.

Step 2

Go to the Copyright Office website and click “electronic Copyright Office” (eCO) to register a cartoon character online. Log in if you already have an account, or follow the prompts to create a new account if you are a first-time user.

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Step 3

Click “Register a New Claim” in the left-hand column of the home page. Select “Work of the Visual Arts” as the type of work, and follow the prompts to fill in required information, including title, publication, contact information and certificate mailing address. Click “Continue” after each step or select “Save for Later” to finish the application later.

Step 4

Follow the prompts to review and certify the application. Click “Checkout” and pay the nonrefundable registration fee, which is $45 as of 2012. Fill in payment information to pay by electronic transfer, credit or debit card, or deposit account.

Step 5

Submit a sample, known as a deposit, of your cartoon character. Upload a digital copy onto the eCO website if the cartoon character is unpublished or only published electronically. Print a shipping slip to mail with hard copies, if your work requires a hard copy deposit. You have finished filing your online registration.

Step 6

Return to the home page and click “My Application” to print a copy of your application for your records. Check your email account for confirmation that the Copyright Office received your application. Track the status of your application by clicking the case number on the eCO home page. You will receive your certificate of registration in the mail.

Register By Mail

Step 1

Obtain printable copyright registration forms from the Copyright Office website. Go to “Forms,” click “Form VA,” and complete the form on your computer or print the form and fill it in by hand. Write to or call the Copyright Office to obtain forms in the mail.

Step 2

Submit two hard copies for a cartoon character published in the United States. Submit one hard copy of your cartoon character if it is unpublished or was first published outside the United States, or if it is part of a collective work. Deposit requirements may vary in some situations.

Step 3

Mail the completed form and $45 filing fee, in the form of check or money order, to the Copyright Office. Send by registered or certified mail to receive confirmation that the Copyright Office received your application. The Copyright Office will mail your certificate of registration.

Protect against infringement by registering a copyright. Get Started Now
How to Copyright Something in Canada

References

Related articles

How to Protect Songs and Poems by Copyright

Original songs and poems are protected by copyright the moment they are fixed in a tangible medium of expression. However, if you want to establish a public record of your copyright and be able to sue infringers for damages, you must register your creative works with the United States Copyright Office. You can register using the online system maintained by the Copyright Office, or you can submit a paper application. Note that songs and poems must be registered separately.

How to Copyright Pictures

Pictures, either created as artwork or taken with a camera, can have their copyrights registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. While they are technically copyrighted the moment they are created in a tangible form, registration enables protection of the work. Motion pictures, such as video recordings, can also be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. Registration is necessary in order to sue and receive damages for infringement of your copyright.

How to Copyright a Drawing

Under current U.S. copyright law, your drawing is automatically protected from the moment that you created it. You are not legally required to formally copyright it. The U.S. Copyright Office recommends that you obtain a certificate of copyright registration for your drawing to receive additional legal protections, including a public record of your copyright claim.

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