Registering Copyrights

Registration of works of “original authorship,” as the U.S. Copyright office calls them, is unnecessary for copyright protection to exist in the United States. It exists as soon as the work is created and “fixed in a tangible form.” However, if there is a dispute and you want to sue to protect your work, registration can be useful. Registration can qualify your work for statutory damages and allow you to recover attorney’s fees if you sue someone for copyright infringement and win. It can also serve as primae facie evidence of a valid copyright if registration occurs within five years of publication of the copyrighted work. Finally, if the copyright is registered, it can be recorded with the U.S. Customs Service in order to stop someone from importing material that infringes on the copyright. A copyright can be registered online, with a fill-in form or a paper one. All methods require a nonrefundable filing fee and a nonreturnable copy of the material to be copyrighted.

Online Registration

There are many advantages online registration for basic claims for as literary works, visial arts and performing arts works. These include faster processing times and lower fees, secure payment by credit or debit card or electronic check, online status tracking and being able to upload the work online. Basic claims are for one work, more than one work if the author and the owner claiming the copyright are the same and for several works that are first published together and are owned by the same person.

Fill-in Form

A second option is the fill-in form CO. Because these forms can be read by 2-D barcode scanning technology, the Copyright Office can process these forms faster and more efficiently. Registrants can fill out the form online, print it out and send it in the mail with the fee and a copy of the work to be registered. You can find this form on the Copyright Office website under the Forms link.

Paper Forms Th

e Copyright Office will mail the paper forms to you if you write them to request it, but they are not available on the office’s website. Form TX is for literary works, Form VA is for visual arts works, Form PA is for performing arts works, including motion pictures and Form SR is for sound recordings. Certain types of registrations such as renewals (on Form RE) must be submitted on the paper forms.


U.S. Copyright Office. (2006, July, 12). Copyright in General (FAQ). Retrieved February 1, 2011 from

U.S. Copyright Office. (2008, July). Copyright Basics. Retrieved February 1, 2011 from