You’ve created a song and wish to assure your rights in it. As you may know, your song (or your abbreviate story, painting, etc.) is adequate as anon as it is “fixed in a actual average of expression,” which agency as anon as it’s accounting down, video taped, recorded, etc. Even afterwards registering the absorb with the U.S. Absorb Office, you accept assertive rights in your song. You can potentially stop others from appliance it. But, there are three capital added allowances to registration:
(1) it creates a anticipation of buying and validity, so continued as you annals aural 5 years of the date on which you absolution the plan to the public;
(2) if you annals the plan afore it is infringed, or in any case aural three months of the date of publication, afresh you may be advantaged to approved amercement and attorney’s fees; and
(3) you don’t accept to delay to accompany clothing adjoin an infringer (registration is almost consistently a prerequisite to bringing suit).
Fortunately, allotment is both bargain (especially compared to its abeyant benefits) and easy. There is no acumen why you can’t annals your copyrights yourself. In fact, while usually government websites are an complete mess, the aboriginal abode you should appointment is the Absorb Office’s website. There you will acquisition a abundance of able information, including some alleged “circulars” which explain aggregate from the attributes of absorb to the agitative apple of barge bark registrations. However, what follows is a apparent English annual of the allotment action and some accessible tips on allotment generally.
The Cost of Allotment and the Allowances of Filing Online
If you’re annual this article, afresh you apparently accept admission to the internet. That’s acceptable news, because filing your allotment online with the Absorb Appointment alone costs $35 per registration. To book online, appointment the Absorb Office’s website and bang on the eCO Login at the top adapted of the screen. Afore proceeding, you accept to annals as a user (which you do by accouterment some basal advice and creating a username and password). Already you annals as a user, you will be able to log in and book your allotment online-you can even upload abstracts to amuse your drop affirmation (more on that later).
Now, for the annual of completeness, I’d like to point out that you can still book your allotment the old ancient way, appliance absolute paper. The next cheapest adjustment of allotment is the Fill-In Anatomy CO. Like it’s name suggests, this is the aforementioned anatomy you would use if you eCO filed, it’s just provided to you in a anatomy area you can book it out and ample it in and mail it aback to the Absorb Office. However, for that advantage the Absorb Appointment accuse you $50.
If you are absolutely old academy and wish to annals appliance the old cardboard forms, afresh you may do so for a fee of $65. The alone absolute aberration amid these forms is the price. Acutely the Absorb Appointment wants to annihilate cardboard as abundant as possible, and the old cardboard forms are priced college than the Fill-In Anatomy CO because the closing use adapted barcode technology that enables the Absorb Appointment to action them added easily. If you can, afresh you should save money and time by eCO filing.
Having registered as a user, you are now accessible to activate registration. There are three elements to a acknowledged absorb registration: (1) achievement of the eCO Form; (2) transaction of the allotment fee; and (3) the acquiescence of drop materials.
Once you actualize a user contour and log into your account, bang on “Register a New Claim,” and afresh “Start Registration.” There are 12 locations to the application, a lot of of which crave some ascribe from you, as declared below.
(1) Blazon of Work
Naturally, you accept to acquaint the Absorb Appointment what blazon of “work” you are registering. By “work,” the Absorb Appointment agency the affair getting registered. There are seven categories of works, and the plan you are gluttonous to annals accept to fit into one of them:
Literary Work. Examples cover books, computer programs, compilations, apprenticeship manuals, and speeches.
Work of the Beheld Arts. Examples cover sculptures, paintings, photographs, murals, bonanza stickers, decals, cartoons, games, greeting cards, and jewelry.
Sound Recording. Examples cover any audio recordings (e.g., of music, songs, and audio books).
Work of the Assuming Arts. Examples cover ballets, operas, and agreeable compositions.
Motion Picture/Audiovisual Work. Examples cover videos, films, and television recordings.
Mask Work. Examples cover semiconductor dent registrations (yes, you can annals the absorb in those, too).
Single Consecutive Issue. Examples cover periodicals, newspapers, magazines, bulletins, newsletters, and journals.
Usually, you’ll apperceive adapted abroad which class you plan fits into (and you can alone aces one). But the artifice thickens if you are, for example, gluttonous to annals a book that contains a few photographs in it. In that case, you accept on your calmly what is referred to somewhat cryptically by the Absorb Appointment as a “work that includes added than one blazon of authorship.” The Absorb Appointment advises you to aces the antecedent that predominates the work.
In added words, is it mostly a book that has a few photographs in it? If so, afresh annals it as a arcane work. Conversely, if it is mostly a book of photographs that has some bound accompanying text, afresh annals it as a plan of beheld art. Agenda that no amount how you adjudge to baptize the work, all the elements independent in it will be protected. In added words, you will not accept to annals the aforementioned plan as both a arcane plan and as a plan of the beheld arts in adjustment to assure it. What if the forms of antecedent are absolutely equal? Well, just aces the one you like best. So continued as you appropriately call your addition to the plan in consecutive sections of the eCO Form, you’ll be covered.
The one barring to that aphorism is for songs. As you may know, songs can be disconnected into altered copyrights. You accept the absorb in the complete recording, which is the recorded adaptation of your song, and you accept the absorb in the agreeable composition, which is the elements that comprise the song, i.e., the melody and lyrics. In the antiquarian days, you had to annals the absorb in the complete recording (as a complete recording) and the absorb in the agreeable acceding (as a plan of assuming art).
Assuming you own both copyrights yourself and did not alteration them away, you alone accept to annals the absorb in the complete recording, and afresh accomplish abiding you appropriately call your addition to the plan in a way that includes the achievement art elements, and you can admission aegis beneath both categories. Note, though, that you cannot accept the plan of achievement art class and afresh affirmation the complete recording absorb too. You accept to accept the complete recording class in adjustment to abduction both copyrights.
Let’s say you best Complete Recording and apprenticed “Continue” at the top of the screen. Next, you accept to appellation the work. Bethink to be accurate if entering in the name of the work-the name accept to absolutely bout the name as it is acclimated on the artefact you deliver to the public. Add the name and yield a minute to verify that it was entered in correctly. If so, bang “Continue” to proceed. (You’ll accept a adventitious to verify this advice later.)
One catechism that decidedly musicians ask is whether they accept to book abstracted absorb registrations for anniversary song on the anthology (which could get acutely expensive). The abbreviate acknowledgment is no. The Absorb Appointment does acquiesce you to annals songs as “collections.” So continued as you are the columnist of all of the songs (either the sole columnist or one of the accidental authors), afresh you can annals as abounding songs as you wish at once.
Note, though, that assertive restrictions may administer depending on whether the accumulating of songs is arise or abstruse and whether the buying in the absorb is the aforementioned aloft all works. These nuances are aloft the ambit of this accurate article, but you can consistently acquaintance an advocate if you accept any specific questions apropos to that subject.
I will accommodate one chat of attention with account to registering songs in collections. You can alone affirmation one instance of absorb contravention per collection. This agency that anyone could abduct every song in your collection, but because you registered the songs as one collection, you can alone aggregate amercement for one act of infringement. Conversely, if you had registered all of the songs individually, afresh you could aggregate amercement for as abounding of the songs as were infringed. I do accept that a lot of musicians can’t acquiesce to annals 12 abstracted songs.
My advancement is to annals songs in collections, but afresh aswell abide abstracted registrations for songs appointed as singles. Or (and this is a riskier solution) delay and see which songs from the almanac are accepted and afresh annals the copyrights in those. This way, you get the added aegis of an alone absorb registration, while aswell attention the added songs in the collection.
Whether or not a plan has been “published” affects what you will charge to abide to the Absorb Appointment in adjustment to annals the plan (what you accept to abide is accepted as the “deposit requirement,” and it is one of the three elements you charge to auspiciously annals a copyright). The Absorb Appointment says advertisement after-effects from:
[T]he administration of copies of a plan to the accessible by auction or added alteration of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending. A plan is aswell “published” if there has been an alms to deliver copies to a accumulation of bodies for purposes of added distribution, accessible performance, or accessible display. A accessible achievement or affectation does not, by itself, aggregate “publication.”
Admittedly, that’s a ambagious analogue in that in leaves a lot of questions unanswered. For example, is a plan “published” if you column it online? The acknowledgment is “probably,” but it depends. The aloft analogue aswell does not accurately contemplate cyberbanking transmissions, but you can analytic accept that if you column something on the internet, it has been broadcast to the accessible if they appearance that angel on their computers. Still, if you acquaint the plan on your clandestine website that alone assertive humans can access, afresh maybe it hasn’t been arise as that action is authentic above. Ultimately, you accept to adjudge that catechism yourself.
Whether or not a plan has been published, and if it has, afresh if it was aboriginal published, does accept a abode on the absorb registration. In the absorption of space, I will not get into the nuances of those issues (although feel chargeless to acquaintance me if you accept any specific questions). However, the catechism of how a work’s advertisement cachet affects what drop abstracts you accept to abide is addressed in added detail below.
Now, let’s say you called “yes” to the catechism of whether the plan has been published. You accept to afresh complete a anatomy that prompts you to access some added information, including the date on which the plan was originally published. If you don’t accept an exact date, don’t worry: just accomplish an accomplished guess.
The columnist is either the getting who created the plan or the alignment that was the columnist if the plan was fabricated for hire. If added than one getting contributed copyrightable elements to a work, afresh you’ll charge to account the assorted authors. Aboriginal – if you are the columnist or one of the authors – bang “Add Me.” Then, baddest your contributions to the (in this case) complete recording.
Let’s say you wrote the lyrics, produced the track, performed on the recording, and-because you cocky recorded and didn’t alteration your absorb in the complete recording to a almanac company-you own a allocation of the complete recording. Afresh you’d baddest those four boxes from the menu. If you charge to add added authors, afresh you may do so, advertisement their names and afresh selecting their corresponding contributions. Let’s say you charge to add Bob as an author. Bob wrote the music to the song, performed on the song, and owns allotment of the complete recording. Afresh you’d baddest those boxes for Bob. And so on and so alternating for any added copyrightable contributions fabricated to the complete recording.
Note that I use the chat “copyrightable” carefully because the contributions you’re registering accept to at atomic be abundantly aboriginal to accreditation absorb aegis in the aboriginal place. For example, the guy who cleans the flat at night ability be basic to your artistic process, but he did not accord copyrightable elements to the complete recording by alone getting present in the studio. Now, if he best up an apparatus or adapted a ambit change, afresh that is addition issue. In fact, you’ll apprehension that this “authorship” bearings can get a little messy. Some bandleaders chose to accept their musicians assurance plan for appoint acceding in which they accredit their rights in the music to the bandleader. This convenance protects you down the alley if your song becomes a hit and al of a sudden the guy who contributed handclaps to the almanac thinks he deserves allotment of the absorb in the song, and appropriately allotment of the money it’s bringing in. But, again, that’s the accountable of addition article.
The “claimant” is either the columnist or the alignment to which the columnist transferred the absolute copyright. The appellant will generally be the aforementioned getting as the columnist of the work. For example, if you are registering your own song, and you own the rights to it, afresh you would be both the columnist and the claimant. But sometimes a almanac aggregation will accomplish you alteration the absorb in the complete recording to them. In that case, they would account you as the columnist of the work, but afresh account themselves as the claimant. If you are the columnist and absorb the absorb and you are the claimant, afresh bang “Add Me.”
(6) Limitation of Claim
Does allotment of your song cover an old folk song that is in the accessible domain, i.e., it’s a folk song from the 1800s and you are appliance you own adjustment of it? Actuality is the allocation of the allotment area you would wish to account that information. Maybe your song contains a sample. Or maybe you re-wrote a song of castigation that you had ahead registered. Usually, you’ll just leave these fields blank, but in the accident one of these exceptions applies, you’ll charge to access the advice requested accordingly. Although you wish to acknowledgment these questions honestly, you ultimately wish your affirmation to be as ample as possible, so accomplish abiding you aren’t advertisement any accidental limitations here.
(7) Rights & Permissions
What if anyone hears your song and wants to use it in a blockbuster cine starring Will Smith’s son, Jaden? The advice you account on this allocation of the anatomy will acquiesce that getting to acquaintance you anon to authorization it from you. Or, if you’d adopt they acquaintance anyone else, you can account that advice too. Maybe you accept a aggregation that handles such requests, or an attorney. Account the adapted entity, and accumulate in apperception that the advice you account actuality becomes accessible information, so alone use your home abode if you’re adequate with that. If not, afresh acquisition a third affair abettor to use or access a column appointment box. Bang “Add Me” if this is you and you don’t apperception your abode getting used.
Again, this is apparently you-the contributor is alone the getting the Absorb Appointment will acquaintance if it has questions about the application. Sometimes this acreage will be active by your attorney’s acquaintance advice if he or she is commutual the appliance for you. As before, bang “Add Me” if this is you. This advice will not arise in the accessible record, so you can use your home abode if you’d like.
(9) Mail Certificate
This is area the Absorb Appointment will mail your adorned affidavit already your plan is registered. Bang “Add Me” if this is you. This advice will aswell not arise in the accessible record, so you can use your home abode if you’d like.
(10) Adapted Handling
Remember how I told you that one account of aboriginal allotment is you’ll be accessible if anyone infringes your copyright? If you don’t annals afore the act of infringement, afresh you’ll accept to annals in adjustment to accompany suit. And you can’t accompany clothing until you accept the allotment in hand, unless you reside in a administration area alone filing is required. Which agency you either accept to delay up to eight added months, or you pay $760 on top of the $35 allotment fee to accept the allotment expedited. If you accept to do that, actuality is area you ask for it. You accept to accept a “compelling reason” for the expedited registration. One of the listed “compelling reasons” is awaiting or -to-be litigation. Baddest if appropriate. If you don’t charge adapted handling, afresh skip this allocation of the form.
Here is area you affirm that all the advice you entered is correct.
(12) Review Submission
Here is area you double-check all of your information.
Once the aloft accomplish are completed, you’ll charge to pay. Actuality is area you do that.
Now that you’ve absolutely declared the plan and provided added accordant information-and of advance afterwards you’ve paid Uncle Sam-you accept to amuse the Absorb Office’s drop affirmation for the blazon of plan you’re registering. Unfortunately, alive what to abide is not easy. The accepted aphorism for drop abstracts is that if the plan is unpublished, afresh you accept to abide one complete archetype of the work, and if the plan is published, afresh you accept to abide two complete copies or the “best edition” of the work.
If you’re registering a Complete Recording, afresh this affirmation is adequately calmly met-simply abide either one or two copies of the complete recording on a CD (or upload the advance if that is an option). Similarly, for a arcane work, you would artlessly mail or upload either one or two copies of the novel, poem, etc. However, if you’re attempting to annals beheld art, afresh this affirmation become a little ambagious and in some cases actual burdensome.
First, bethink that announcement the plan publicly, afterwards more, does not necessarily aggregate “publication.” So if you’re registering that painting you accept blind on a bank of an art gallery, afresh you’re apparently registering an “unpublished” work, and as such will alone accept to abide what the Absorb Appointment refers to as “identifying material,” i.e., a photograph acutely depicting the complete work.
On the added hand, if you had prints of the painting fabricated and are affairs them, afresh you accept a lot of acceptable “published” the work, and now you accept to abide two complete copies of the plan (which in this case would be the prints you are selling). Similarly, if you’re registering a three-dimensional sculpture, or artwork that is absorbed to a three-dimensional object, afresh whether the plan is arise or not, you still alone charge to abide anecdotic material, because appointment a archetype is not practical.
Sound confusing? Fortunately, the Absorb Appointment provides a accessible little chart, which does a acceptable job of anecdotic what drop abstracts are bare for anniversary affectionate of beheld artwork. However, agenda that even if-according to the chart-you accept to abide a complete archetype of the work, you may still seek abatement beneath 37 CFR § 202.20(d)-(e). Basically, those approved accoutrement acquiesce you to ask the Absorb Appointment to abandon the drop affirmation for you due to adapted circumstances-e.g., if for whatever acumen the plan is just not able of getting affected or it would be overwhelmingly crushing for you to accept to archetype it. However, you accept to affably ask for such adapted abatement in writing, and of advance your appeal accept to be accepted in adjustment for your allotment to proceed.
Remember that, while you don’t technically accept to put the “(c)” on the plan in adjustment to absorb absorb protection, you should, as it puts the apple on apprehension that a absorb is claimed. That apprehension can anticipate a actor from claiming innocent contravention in a cloister of law, and the attendance of the apprehension may aswell bolster your altercation for adamant infringement, which would actual decidedly access your damages. Accomplish abiding to put the “(c)” followed by the year of advertisement and afresh your name.
Finally, agenda that the date of your allotment is not the date you accept your affidavit of registration, but rather the date on which the Absorb Appointment receives what they charge to annals the copyright. If you completed the eCO Anatomy correctly, afresh that should be the day you submitted the completed online application. That’s it! Your plan is on its way to getting registered by the Absorb Office. Now go bless by creating (and afresh promptly registering) added art.
 I use the chat “almost” actuality because some jurisdictions do acquiesce you to admit a accusation aloft the filing of your registration. However, you’ll charge to argue case law to actuate whether your administration is filing-only jurisdiction. An advocate can help.
Specifically, Forms PA, SR, TX, VA, and SE, which angle for assuming arts, complete recordings, arcane works, beheld works, and individual consecutive issues, respectively. While those forms are not acclimated as abundant these days, the acumen amid the assorted types of registrations is important, as will be seen.
 The “best edition” applies if the plan has been arise in altered editions, in which case you would abide whichever copy was larger, was printed on bigger paper, had added colors, etc.