How to Obtain Copyright Registeration

The Basic Approach

Your idea is not protected when it is just "in your head." Your work must be "fixed" in a tangible medium of expression. Once your original work is created and fixed, only you or those you permit may create other works based on the original. You alone may authorize distribution, display, or performance of your work. Copyright registration will enable you to enforce these rights. To receive a registration, an application must be filed with the Copyright Office of the Library of Congress. For more basic information, see our Copyrights section page.

When to Apply

Registration may be made at any time within the life of the copyright. However, there are advantages to applying before 3 months have passed since publication of the work. When a work has been registered in unpublished form, it is not necessary to apply for another registration when the work becomes published, although the copyright owner may register the published edition, if desired.

Effective Date of Registration

A copyright registration is effective on the date the Copyright Office receives all the required elements in acceptable form, regardless of how long it then takes to process the application and mail the certificate of registration. The time the Copyright Office requires to process an application varies, depending on the amount of material the Office is receiving.

Who May File a Copyright Application

A copyright application can be filed by the author, a copyright claimant, the owner of an exclusive right, or an authorized agent of one of these copyright owners. Either the person who actually created the work or, if the work was made for hire, the employer or other person for whom the work was prepared, can file the application as the author.

Copyright Claimant

The copyright claimant is defined in Copyright Office regulations as either the author of the work or a person or organization that has obtained ownership of all the rights under the copyright initially belonging to the author. This category includes a person or organization who has obtained by contract the right to claim legal title to the copyright in an application for copyright registration.

Owner of an Exclusive Right

Any of the exclusive rights that make up a copyright and any subdivision of them can be transferred and owned separately, even though the transfer may be limited in time or place of effect. Any owner of an exclusive right may apply for registration of a claim in the work.

Proper U.S. Registration and Attorney Assistance

Although an attorney is not required, professional legal assistance can help ensure that you apply for the optimal registration rights. Professional copyright registration in the U.S. is an investment that can head off potential legal challenges in this and other countries, and can smooth the process of doing business around the world.


To receive free information on copyrights or if you have any questions, contact us via our secure Contact Form. If you would like us to prepare your Copyright Application for you, please submit your request via our secure Copyright Application Request Form.