Copyright registration in the USA has to be made with the U.S. Copyright Office, being directed by the Register of Copyrights
U.S. copyright law does not make a distinction between “copyright” and “related rights:
- performances, broadcasts, and sound recordings are subject to copyright protection, as with the other types of authorship, to the extent the subject matter is fixed in a tangible medium of expression and meets the requirements of originality
- derivative works, compilations and collective works may also be registered
- registration is also possible for any transfer of copyright ownership–including an assignment, exclusive license, or any other conveyance of a copyright or of any of the exclusive rights comprised in a copyright, whether or not it is limited in time or place of effect—or other document pertaining to a copyright.
In determining whether a work is copyrightable, the Office analyzes questions such as
- is the work eligible for copyright protection in the United States?
- has the work been fixed in a tangible medium of expression?
- was the work created by a human author?
- does the work constitute copyrightable subject matter?
- is the work sufficiently original?
- was the work independently created?
- does the work possess at least some minimal degree of creativity?
The U.S. Copyright Office will register works created by a foreign author if the work is eligible for copyright protection in the United States. U.S. copyright law protects the unpublished works of all authors (domestic or foreign) as long as the work is not in the public domain.
Published works of foreign authors may be eligible for protection in the United States if they satisfy additional requirements, as, for example
- upon the work’s first publication, one or more author(s) of the work (i) is a national or domiciliary of the United States; (ii) is a national, domiciliary, or sovereign authority of a treaty party; or (iii) is a stateless person wherever that person is domiciled.
- protection is also afforded to all works that are first published in (i) the United States, or (ii) a foreign nation that, on the date of the first publication, is a treaty party. In other words, regardless of the nationality or domicile of the author(s), a work may be eligible for protection under the Copyright Act if it is first published in the United States or in any nation that has a relevant treaty with the United States at the time of the first publication.
Time frame for copyright registration in the USA is about 6 to 9 months
Required documents and information
The following documents are required in an application to register the copyright in a work
- Power of Attorney
- copy of the item to be registered
- in case of assignment: copy of the assignment agreement
The following information is required in an application to register the copyright in a work
- whether the item to be registered is a work for hire or not
- creation date
- publication date (if any)
- name, address and citizenship of the author
- birthday of the author (natural persons only)
- name, address and citizenship of the applicant, if different from author
Upon completion of the registration, a certified copy may be obtained, which is an officially recognized document which may be used to prove the ownership in the respective copyright.
Registration made before or within the first five years after publication provides prima facie evidence of the facts stated in the copyright certificate and prima facie evidence of the validity of the copyright.
Registration before infringement occurs entitles a copyright owner to elect statutory damages and, in the discretion of the court, to be awarded attorney’s fees if the copyright owner prevails in a copyright infringement action. If a copyright owner registers within three months of publication, statutory damages and attorney’s fees will be available for any infringements occurring after publication.