Can I Register a Copyright Online? What is the Online Copyright Process?

How to Register a Copyright Online
How to Register a Copyright Online. Epoxydude/Getty Images

Can I Register a Copyright Online? What is the Online Copyright Process?

A copyright is a protection for creators of works to prevent them from being stolen by others. These creative works include books, articles, videos, audios, paintings, and many others.

Copyrights do not have to be registered to be valid and enforceable, but it is wise to register your copyright. The U.S. Copyright Office has developed an online copyright process that makes it much easier, faster, and cheaper to register a copyright online.

Before You Register Your Copyright Online

Before you register your copyright online, here is some information you should know:

  • Although every work is unique, you may want to check the copyright records, to see if the work you want to copyright has already been recorded. 
  • Be sure you can copyright the work. You cannot copyright the title of the work, and there are other creative works you cannot copyright.  (You may want to look at trademarking something if you can't copyright it.)
  • The online copyright registration process is easier and less expensive than the paper mail-in registration process. An online registration costs only $35 (compared to $45 for a mail-in registration). You can use a debit or credit card, or electronic check to register.
  • Check to see if you can use the online copyright process. Some types of works must be filed in paper form. See the Forms page for the list of these works.
  • The online filing process is also faster. The Copyright Office says
    Ninety percent of Form CO filers should receive a certificate within eight months of submission. One-third should receive a certificate within five months. Whatever time is needed to issue a certificate, the effective date of registration is the day the Copyright Office receives a complete submission in acceptable form. You do not need to wait for a certificate to proceed with publication.

     

    To register or pre-register a copyright online 

    Go to the website of the U.S. Copyright Office and go to the eCO (electronic Copyright registration page) and log in. The registration process includes completing the application, making a payment, and submitting your work. There is a tutorial you might want to review before you start registering copyrights.

    Preregistration of some works, including unpublished works, is also a possibility. Follow the eCO guidelines for pre-registration. The pre-registration fee is $140.00.

    Steps in the Online Copyright Process

    Registering a copyright involves three steps, which must be completed in order: 

    First, you will need to register with eCO to create an account. 

    There are several types of copyright applications. You will need to answer some questions about your copyright application so the system can determine which type of application you will need to complete. 

    Second, you will need to pay the copyright fee. You can pay online using pay.gov. 

    Finally, you must deposit a copy of the work being registered. 

    Information for copyright application

    To register a copyright, as you go through the process you will be asked for information. Here is a list of what you should be prepared to answer: 

    1. The type of application. You will be asked some questions that will be used to determine the type of application you need to file. 

    2. The type of work (book, play, etc.). 

    3. The title of the work; you can add an additional title (subtitle)

    4. The publication status (published or unpublished)

    5. Author information. You can have more than one author. For each author, you will be asked to describe the author's contribution. An author can be an individual or an organization. 

    6. Claimant - owner of the work, one who certifies that he/she has the right to claim this copyright.

    7. Contact for rights and permissions. Who someone should contact to ask for permission to use the work. 

    8. Contact for correspondence with the copyright office. 

    9. Mailing address for the copyright certificate. 

    For More Information about Online Copyright

    The Copyright Office's eCO (online copyright) page has tutorials and other information to help you through this process.