Washington, D.C. Location

McNeely, Hare & War LLP
5335 Wisconsin Ave, NW, Suite 440,
Washington, DC 20015
(202) 274-0214

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Princeton, NJ Location

McNeely, Hare & War LLP
12 Roszel Road, Suite C104,
Princeton, NJ 08540
(609) 240-2533

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Register your copyrighted work within three months of first publication.

What is copyright?

Copyright protects an author’s original and creative works. Originality means the work is not copied, and creativity means that it evidences some thought.

The Copyright Act gives the copyright owner the exclusive right to:

  • Reproduce the work
  • Prepare derivative works of the work
  • Distribute copies of the work to the public
  • Perform or display the work publicly

Copyright protects original works of authorship that are fixed in a tangible form of expression, meaning that the works may be communicated with the aid of a machine or device. Examples of copyrighted works include:

  • Literary works (books and magazines)
  • Musical works
  • Dramatic works (movies, plays, and television shows)
  • Pantomimes and choreographic works
  • Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works (paintings, photographs, sculptures)
  • Audio-visual works
  • Sound recordings
  • Architectural works
  • Computer Software (the literal code and the structure, sequence, and organization of a program)

What is not copyright protected?

Several categories of material are generally not eligible for federal copyright protection:

  • Works that have not been fixed in a tangible form of expression, for example, choreographic works that have not been notated or recorded, or improvisational speeches or performances that have not been written or recorded
  • Titles, names, short phrases, and slogans; familiar symbols or designs; mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering, or coloring; mere listings of ingredients or contents
  • Ideas, procedures, methods, systems, processes, concepts, principles, discoveries, or devices, as distinguished from a description, explanation, or illustration
  • Works consisting entirely of information that is common property and containing no original authorship, for example, standard calendars, height and weight charts, tape measures and rulers, and lists or tables taken from public documents or other common sources

Why should I register my copyright?

Copyright notice is not required because copyright is secured automatically when the work is created, and a work is “created” when it is fixed in a copy or phonorecord for the first time. However, there are advantages to using a copyright notice since it advises potential infringers that the work is protected by copyright, and it can be used to show that the infringement was not an accident.

A copyright notice includes (1) the symbol ©, the word “Copyright”, (2) the publication year, and (3) the owner’s name. Registration requires filing an application and a copy of the work with the Copyright Office.

Registration gives the copyright owner valuable added protections:

  • Registration within three months of first publication allows the owner to bring an action for statutory damages and attorney fees.
  • If registration is obtained within five years of publication, it also creates certain presumptions of validity and ownership in a copyright infringement suit.

Registration is also advantageous to readily identify the copyright by its number and to properly record assignments and transfers in the Copyright Office.