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Detail from Sculling on the Potomac by J. Love, 1888. From the University Art CollectionBooth Family Center for Special Collections

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Copyright Registration

Do I need to register my work with the Copyright Office?

No. In the United States, copyright protection applies automatically as soon as a work is created and fixed in a tangible form, such as on paper or saved electronically. No notice or registration is required for your copyright to be valid.

Are there any advantages to registering my work with the Copyright Office?

Yes. If there is ever any litigation over your work, there are several important benefits to having a registered copyright:

    1. Before you can file a lawsuit for infringement, your work must be registered with the Copyright Office.
    2. If your registration is timely, you may be eligible for statutory damages of up to $150,000. If not, you will be entitled to only actual damages and profits.
    3. If your registration is timely and your litigation is successful, you may also be awarded attorney's fees.

For more information, read the Copyright Office's page on Stopping Copyright Infringement.

When should I register my work?

You can register your copyright anytime; however, there are significant advantages to timely registration, which means your application is filed either (i) within 3 months of publication or (ii) prior to any infringing activity. 

If your work is a thesis or dissertation, when you submit your work through ProQuest, you will be given the option of having them file the application with the United States Copyright Office on your behalf. Registration is not required for you to retain ownership of the copyright in your work. If you decide to register your copyright, you may be able to do it through ProQuest ($75 fee), or you can file the registration yourself with the Copyright Office ($45 for a single application). If your work includes the work of anyone else other than quotations (e.g., images, charts, tables, sections based on co-authored articles), the ProQuest option is not available, and you must register directly with the Copyright Office ($65 for a standard application). For more information, visit the Copyright Office's Registration Tutorials page.

How do I register my work?

    1. Complete the application form online or in print
    2. Pay the filing fee
    3. Deposit a copy of the work

Which should I choose, online or paper registration?

The online registration system, eCO (Electronic Copyright Office), is the preferred way to register copyright claims.  

The advantages to online filing are:

1. Lower filing fee

    • online:$45 for a single application 
    • online: $65 for a standard application
    • paper: $125 for most applications
    • details are on the Copyright Office's Fees page

2. Faster processing time

3. Online status tracking available

4. Works can be uploaded directly into eCO as electronic files

How do I use the online registration process?

    1. Go to eCO, and create an account using the "If you are a new user, click here to register" link in the User Login box. 
    2. Complete the registration form to create an account.
    3. Once you are logged in with your account,  look for "Copyright Registration" on the left side of the screen:
      • Choose "Other Registration Options" | "Register One Work by One Author" if you have a single application
      • Otherwise, choose "Register a Work" | "Standard Application"
    4. Complete the information required on each of the screens: Type of Work, Titles, Publication/Completion, Authors, Claimants, Limitation of Claim, Rights & Permissions, Correspondent, Mail Certificate, Special Handling, and Certification.
    5. Review your submission and add it to your cart.
    6. From "My Cart," choose "Checkout."
    7. Pay the fee online by credit card, debit card, ACH (Automated Clearing House) debit from your bank account, or a deposit account.
    8. If you have an acceptable file type, choose "Upload Deposit" to submit your work online. If not, choose "Create Shipping Slip" to submit a hard copy.
    9. After you submit your online application, you will get an email acknowledging receipt. 
    10. After your copyright has been registered, you will receive a certificate from the Copyright Office. It may take up to four months to receive your certificate if you filed online; registration times vary significantly depending on a number of factors.
    11. To inquire about the status of your application, fill out the Status Request form.

How can I get more information about eCO?

The eCO Standard Application Tutorial, eCO Single Application Tutorial, and eCO FAQs have more details about the registration process.

If I can't use eCO, how do I file using the paper form?

First, you will need to choose the appropriate paper form for your work - Form TX is for Literary Works. If you have a non-literary work, choose the appropriate form from the Copyright Office's Forms page and follow the instructions on the form. 

Paper applications can take up to 13 months to process. If you haven’t heard back after 13 months fill out the Status Request form.

Need Help from the Copyright Office?

Read their Frequently Asked Questions about Copyright, use their Contact Form, or call them at (202) 707-3000 or (877) 476-0778. 

For additional information, the Copyright Office's Circulars cover the basics and fundamental concepts of copyright law, highlights of policies and procedures of the Copyright Office, and registration issues for specific categories of works. For full details regarding the Office’s policies and procedures, refer to the Compendium of U.S. Copyright Office Practices, Third Edition.