Procedure for registering a copyright

Registration of a copyright is straightforward and an application can be filed electronically through the Copyright website or by filling out a two-page form applicable to the work for which copyright is being applied. Registration applicants should ensure that they own the copyright, and that the author(s) or creator(s) are properly named, prior to filling out an application.

The Copyright Office website requires an applicant to register as a user and then guides them through the registration process with a series of questions, followed by payment of the registration fee and instructions for filing the required specimen (sample) of the work to be registered. For commercial activities, the most commonly used forms are form “TX” (for “text”), which is used for works made up primarily of written text, and form “VA” (for “visual arts”), used for works that are made up primarily of pictures. Copies of the various forms, along with an explanation as to which forms should be used for specific types of works, can be found on the Copyright Office website, at However, the Copyright Office strongly encourages electronic filings, which are rewarded with faster processing and lower fees.

Registration involves sending or submitting the completed form, one or two specimens (i.e., one or two copies of the work), and the registration fee (currently either $35 or $55, depending on whether the application is for a single work by a single author who is claiming the copyright and not a work for hire), to the Copyright Office, which is run under the auspices of the Library of Congress. In certain cases, identifying material such as complete photos of the entire work, such as a sculptural piece, are submitted instead of copies. If there are problems with the application or more information is required, a written request is sent by the Copyright Examiner. Any response is normally written, and the registration process is more user-friendly and less formalistic than the procedures associated with other forms of intellectual property protection. There are also procedures for obtaining an expedited registration, but these require a substantially larger fee and more information.