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How do you establish a copyright?

On Behalf of | Jun 1, 2024 | business litigation

Establishing a copyright is a great way to protect original work.

Copyright grants the creator exclusive rights to use and distribute their work.

Create an original work

The U.S. Copyright Office issued more than 440,000 copyrights in 2023. The first step to establishing a copyright involves creating an original work. Copyright law protects various forms of creative expression, including literary, musical, artistic and dramatic works. The work must be original and show some degree of creativity. Simply copying someone else’s work will not qualify for copyright protection.

Fix the work in a tangible medium

The creator must fix the work in a tangible medium of expression. This means the work must exist in a physical form that others can perceive, such as a book, painting or recording. A spoken idea or performance that is not recorded or written down does not qualify for copyright protection. Once the creator fixes the work in a tangible medium, the creator automatically holds the copyright.

Register the copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office

Although copyright protection begins as soon as the creator finishes the work and fixes it in a tangible medium, registering the copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office provides additional benefits. Registration is not mandatory but offers legal advantages. These advantages include the ability to file a lawsuit for copyright infringement and the potential to recover statutory damages and attorney’s fees in court.

To register a copyright, the creator needs to complete an application form, pay a filing fee and submit a copy of the work to the U.S. Copyright Office. The office provides online and paper applications. After submitting the application, the office will review it and, if everything is in order, will issue a certificate of registration.

Mark the work with a copyright notice

Adding a copyright notice to the work is not required by law, but it is a good practice. The notice informs others that a copyright protects the work and identifies the owner.

Maintain records and enforce rights

After establishing a copyright, it is important to maintain records of the creation and registration of the work. Keeping detailed records helps prove ownership if disputes arise. Enforcing copyright rights involves monitoring the use of the work and taking action against unauthorized uses.

Creators of original work should understand how copyrights work.