Copyright Registration


How and When Do I Register a Copyright?

To register a work, submit a completed application form and a non-returnable copy or copies of the work to be registered to the U.S. Copyright Office.   Alternatively, you can use the automated Image Protect Copyright registration service to register your images for you.

Does it have to be registered?

No. Copyright exists from the moment the work is created. You will have to register work of U.S. origin, however, before an infringement suit may be filed in court. Additionally, you must register your work within three months after publication or before an infringement occurs to collect statutory damages and attorney’s fees in court actions. Otherwise, only an award of actual damages and profits is available to the copyright owner.

How Long Does Copyright Protection Last?

As a general rule, for works created after January 1, 1978, copyright protection lasts for the life of the author plus an additional 70 years. For an anonymous work, a pseudonymous work, or a work made for hire, the copyright endures for a term of 95 years from the year of its first publication or a term of 120 years from the year of its creation, whichever expires first.

For works first published prior to 1978, the term will vary depending on several factors. To determine the length of copyright protection for a particular work, consult chapter 3 of the Copyright Act (title 17 of the United States Code).

What is published?

Generally, publication occurs on the date on which copies of the work are first made available to the public for sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending.  Additionally, offering to distribute the work to a group of persons for purposes of further distribution, public performance, or public display constitutes publication.

A public performance or display of a work does not of itself constitute publication.

Effective Date of Registration

A copyright registration is effective on the date the Copyright Office receives all the required items in acceptable form, no matter how long it the office takes to process the application and mail the certificate of registration.

Foreign registration in the United States?

Any work that is protected by U.S. copyright law can be registered. This includes many works of foreign origin. All works that are unpublished, regardless of the nationality of the author, are protected in the United States. Works that are first published in the United States or in a country with which we have a copyright treaty or that are created by a citizen or domiciliary of a country with which we have a copyright treaty are also protected and may therefore be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office.