Whether you are an artist, an author, a composer, an electronic game developer or any other type of creative person, the works you create are your intellectual property, meaning that you created them from scratch. As such, you want to protect them from infringement by others.
That is what a copyright does.
When your copyright takes effect
FindLaw explains that your copyright automatically takes effect as soon as you put your creation in “final tangible form,” whether or not you actually “publish” it, that is, make it available for sale to the public.
At this point, you have the right to affix the copyright symbol, a c in a circle, to your work. Technically, you also have the protection that a copyright provides.
Advantages of registration
As a practical matter, however, you need to register your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office to have full protection. For instance, you can only do the following after registration, not before:
- Make a public record of your copyright that puts others on notice that your creation belongs to you
- Receive a Certificate of Registration that officially recognizes your creation as yours and the date on which you registered your copyright
- File an infringement lawsuit in court if someone else uses your creation without your permission
- Seek statutory damages and attorney’s fees in your lawsuit
- Record your registration with U.S. Customs and Border Protection
You can register your copyright any time, but the sooner you do so, the better. Registration is a free process. and you can do it online.
In general, your copyright and its registration last for the length of your life, plus 70 years after your death.