Copyright how to

May 27, 2009

Copyrights protect intellectual property. Technically, original works are protected by copyright law whether or not they are registered, but without registration, it’s hard to resolve disputes when someone tries to infringe on your material. Here’s my quick and easy how-to based on my experience with the U.S. Copyright Office for the book.

In the past, hard copies of forms would have to be completed and attached to an original copy of the work to be registered, but not anymore. The copyright office has joined the 21st century and allows for eCO registration, an online form and digital upload option that replaces most of the old forms (Forms TX, VA, PA, SE and SR).

Simply visit and head over to the Electronic Copyright Office. There you can create a user name and login.

There are three parts to the process – application, fee payment and digital upload. The full process is detailed in the eCO Tutorial provided by the copyright office.

Essentially the application consists of the following – Titles (of the work to be registered), Publication Date, Authors, Claimants (who is registering the claim), Limitation of Claim (creates an exception for any pre-existing material so it isn’t included in the new claim), Rights and Permissions (a publicly available and optional contact regarding the work), Correspondent (contact info regarding the work), Mail Certificate (address to send confirmation certificate), Special Handling (expedites process but costs WAY more than it is worth), Certification and Reviewing Submission.

It’s pretty slick and straight-forward. If you want to take a break at any point you can save the application and go back later. After the application looks how you want it to, you’ll be required to submit the processing fee before moving on to the next step. They’ll temporarily redirect you to a site ( to take care of that aspect.

They take credit and debit cards, so it’s just like any other online transaction. After that, you’re redirected back to the eCO site and you can upload your digital version of the work. You can also still do the old-school method and mail your original work, just select that option at this stage.

And that’s it! The registration is in effect as soon as the office receives all your materials. Within ten weeks to six months applicants should also receive a certificate in the mail.

Stay tuned for some more book news later this week!

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