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Copyright Quick Reference Guide

This guide provides basic information on copyright law to help you make sense of your copyright questions.

What is copyright registration?

One common misconception about copyright is that you must file paperwork with the federal government before you have a copyright. While that may be true for other forms of intellectual property, it is not so for copyright.

Still, registering your work with the Copyright Office offers some benefits that are otherwise unavailable to you as a copyright owner.

17 U.S.C. § 401 - 412

What are the benefits of registration?

Under the current law, registration is not mandatory. Instead, it is ultimately up to the copyright's owner whether or not to do so. However, to encourage you to register, the law offers some benefits if you do so.   

For additional information about registration, see Circular 1: Copyright Basics from the Copyright Office. 

How do I register?

After you have decided that you should register your work, the next question is, of course, how to do so. For most works, you can register online through the Copyright Office's website. Usually, if you file online, there is a $35 fee. To file in print, the fee is $85. Registration for certain types of works, including things like masks and vessel hull designs,  can only be filed in paper at this time. If you're curious about additional fees from the Copyright Office, see Circular 4 for more information. 

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