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  1. What is a copyright?
  2. What rights do I have as a copyright owner?
  3. How long does the copyright last? Do I get to renew the copyright?
  4. Why should I register my copyright?
  5. So how is a copyright application filed?
  6. How much does it cost to file a copyright application?
  7. What is needed to file a copyright application?
  8. What happens after filing?
  9. How long does the examiner take to review the application?
  10. Can you respond to the examiner?
  11. What is the cost to respond to the examiner?
  12. What happens after the response to the examiner?
  13. So how long until I get my copyright registration certificate?
  14. How do I mark a copyrighted work?

What is a copyright?

  • Copyright protection exists for original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device. 
  • Works of authorship include (but are not limited to) literary, musical, dramatic, choreographic, pictorial, graphic, sculptural, audiovisual, and architectural works, and sound recordings.

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What rights do I have as a copyright owner?

The owner of a copyright has the exclusive rights to do and to authorize any of the following:

  • reproduce the copyrighted work in copies or phonorecords
  • prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work
  • distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease or lending
  • in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works, to perform the copyrighted work publicly
  • in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, to display the copyrighted work publicly
  • in the case of sound recordings, to perform the copyrighted work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.

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How long does the copyright last?  Do I get to renew the copyright? 

  • Under current law, the copyright on a work created after January 1, 1978 endures for the life of the author plus 70 years after the author’s death. 
  • In the case of a joint work prepared by two or more authors who did not work for hire, the copyright endures for a term consisting of the life of the last surviving author and 70 years after such last surviving author’s death.
  • In the case of 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. 
  • Copyrights are no longer renewable.

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Why should I register my copyright?

  • Registration is not mandatory.  However, no action for infringement for a United States work may be brought until such time as the owner has registered, or sought registration of, the copyright.
  • Timely registration of the copyright affords the owner certain advantages not otherwise available, such as potential recovery of statutory damages and attorneys’ fees in the event of an infringement action.

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So how is a copyright application filed?

  • An application for registration of a copyright is filed with the Library of Congress, Copyright Office. 

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How much does it cost to file a copyright application?

  • The government’s filing fee differs depending on the application, but is currently $30 per application for most works.
  • The total cost for filing an application for registration of copyright typically is between $150-250, including filing fee.  More costs may be involved in connection with unpublished works, or if unforeseen problems occur in obtaining acceptable deposit copies, or if a response to the examiner is necessary.

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What is needed to file a copyright application?

  • Completed application form, deposit copies (one if unpublished, two if published), and filing fee. 
  • The registration form is signed by an authorized representative of the copyright owner, and creation date and publication dates must be included.

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What happens after filing?

  • The copyright application is assigned to an examiner, who in some cases may reject the application.  For example, if the examiner determines that a particular work does not evidence the requisite originality (such as in common geometric shapes that are used in jewelry), then registration may be refused.

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How long does the examiner take to review the application?

  • Generally, the registration certificate is received within 4-6 months after filing. 

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Can you respond to the examiner?

  • If the examiner does reject the application, you have the right to respond to the rejection, and to attempt to overcome it.  Typically, you have 120 days to respond to a copyright application rejection.  Most of the time, the examiner does not reject an application.

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What is the cost to respond to the examiner?

  • The cost for responding to the examiner depends on the objection, but typically will be between $300 to $750.

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What happens after the response to the examiner?

  • If the examiner agrees with the arguments made in response to the objections, a registration certificate is usually issued.

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So how long until I get my copyright registration certificate?

  • You will usually receive the registration certificate within 4-6 months from filing of the application.  If an objection is raised by the examiner, this will typically delay issuance of the registration by a few months.
  • The copyright registration will be effective from the date of receipt by the Copyright Office.

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How do I mark a copyrighted work?

  • It is no longer necessary to mark a recently created copyrighted work, however, there are some benefits to doing so (one important reason is to provide notice to others, which can eliminate the defense of “innocent infringement” by an infringing party).
  • An appropriate copyright notice in the U.S. is as follows:
    “Copyright © 2004.  XYZ Co., Ltd.  All Rights Reserved.”

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