How to Copyright in Illinois

By Joe Stone

Copyright law in the state of Illinois, like all states, is governed by federal law. The U.S. Constitution vests in Congress the power establish copyrights, which was most recently done by enacting the Copyright Act of 1976. The act gives the authors of original works exclusive rights in their works, which applies to the work as soon as it is created in a fixed form, such as a document, video or audio recording. There is no requirement to register the copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office; however, registered copyrights receive greater protection and remedies than unregistered copyrights.

Step 1

Obtain the appropriate registration form from the U.S. Copyright Office, depending on the type of original work you want to register. For example, a literary work requires Form TX; visual arts requires Form VA; performing arts requires Form PA; sound recordings require Form SR; and Form SE is required for works that will be published in a series, such as periodicals. The forms are available for download from the website of the U.S. Copyright Office.

Step 2

Complete the appropriate registration form for your original work by filling in the required information where requested on the form. This information generally includes the title of the work, year it was created, a brief description of the work and a statement as to whether it has been published, your identifying information and, if applicable, information about any previous registration. You must sign the form and certify that the information is true to the best of your knowledge.

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Step 3

Submit the completed form along with the required copies of your work to the U.S. Copyright Office. In general, one copy of an unpublished work must accompany the form and two copies must be deposited for published works. The address for submitting the form and copies is Library of Congress, Copyright Office, 101 Independence Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20559-6222. The appropriate fee must also be submitted with the form. Call the Copyright Public Information Office at (202) 707-3000 for information on the current fees.

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Copyright law protects works of authorship, including art and software algorithms. To fully protect your work, you must create it and then register it with the U.S. Copyright Office. U.S. copyright law imposes both civil and criminal penalties against infringement. If you register your work, you can obtain damages of up to $150,000 per infringement without proving that the infringement caused you any economic damages. The procedure for creating and registering your copyright is straightforward and simple.

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Copyright is the exclusive right to copy, distribute or adapt a creative work. This right can belong to the artist who created the work, the company that commissioned the work, or the buyer or licensee of the rights to a work. The person or entity that caused the work to be created automatically gains the copyright to it the moment the work is committed to a fixed medium. However, it is only upon registering the work with the U.S. Copyright Office that the rights holder gains the ability to sue another party for infringement.


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