How to Officially Copyright Your Work

How to Officially Copyright Your Work

Every now and then, someone unfairly copies the novels, stories and plays produced by unsuspecting writers. This is why it’s important for professional writers to consider copyrighting their work. But very few writers know how the copyright process works, leaving their work susceptible to exploitation from others. Here, we’ll breakdown how writers can protect their work from not-so-honest people.

According to the United States Copyright Office, a copyright is a form of protection that U.S. law extends to authors of literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and other creative works, including novels, films, plays, songs, sculptures, architectural designs and computer software. To be protected, a work also must have a minimum amount of creativity or “original authorship.”

Copyright law was created to enable authors to benefit from their work, while limiting the term of protection helps to make knowledge widely accessible. The law protects art that explains, illustrates or describes the system. Copyright law does not give authors the right to prevent others from using ideas, procedures, processes or methods in works. The copyright protection-which lasts for the life of an author, plus 70 years-allows teachers to copy parts of copyrighted works for classroom use.

One important note that many writers miss: Words and short phrases (such as names, titles and slogans are not protected by copyright law). Additionally, the law does not protect familiar symbols or designs, standard forms of typography, printer’s ornamentation or coloring-logos and slogans can be protected by trademark laws.

This means that trademarked logos and slogans do not qualify for copyright protection, but poems, screenplays and song compositions are original works that can be protected. Copyright law does not protect the following:

Names of products and services

Pen names or stage names of artists

Titles of works

Catchwords, catchphrases, mottoes, slogans or short ads

Listings of recipe ingredients

Many people don’t know this, but budding writers can feel free to use the copyright (A�) symbol before they officially apply for the copyright protection. How can they do this? Well, writers can do this because copyright protection takes effect the moment an original work is created. However, the downside to using the copyright symbol and bypassing the official process is that registration is required to secure certain remedies in legal cases alleging copyright infringement.

Those interested in registering their work can apply for the protection in several ways: online, via mail and the Copyright Form CO. As of this writing, it costs $50.00 to apply for copyright registration via the Copyright Office, the agency that maintains the public record of American copyrights.

Get more pointers at