Copyright Registration

Copyright is for everyone.

Any work created in the United States after January 1, 1978 is automatically protected by copyright law. BUT there’s a catch!

Without registration of your work with the Copyright Office, you lose key enforcement tools. And if the party who infringed your work knows this, you lose leverage in trying to negotiate a settlement.

Make Registration Part of Your Workflow

Elements of a U.S. Copyright Registration

  • Application
  • Filing Fee
  • Deposit Copy(ies)

Build the filing fees into your budget. One resolved infringement case can pay for a lifetime of registrations–and then some!

Make copyright registration part of your workflow.

Timely Registration In Your Spare Time

The best time to file a registration application is before your work enters the market in any form. RightsClick makes registration so easy and fast, you can do it during a coffee break.

Making copyright part of your workflow is one step easier with our Plugin for Capture One.

Retain your copyrights, but without registration, those rights are not enforceable.

Retaining Your Copyrights is Half the Job

Most creators who work for clients retain their copyrights by contract. But without registration, enforcing those rights may be impossible.

Timely registration is a prerequisite to filing a claim in court. And if an infringer knows you can’t go to court, settling a claim is far less likely.

Is everything you make protected by copyright? Many things are, but not everything. If you are unsure, we recommend reviewing the Copyright Office overview of works that can be protected.

An infringer is more likely to pay a settlement rather than pay a lot more to defend a case he probably won’t win.

Preparing Materials for Registration

The copies submitted to the Copyright Office for registration are called Deposit Copies. In most cases, you should submit electronic (digital) Deposit Copies, but there are a few exceptions. See Submitting Digital vs. Physical Deposit Copies.

Also, for sculpture, jewelry, paintings, applied arts, and other one-of-a-kind works please see our page about deposit copies for these types of works.

File Size & Types

For creators with large portfolios (e.g., photographers) we recommend files of 3mb or less. But for registration purposes, it is important that all the elements of a visual work are visible in the copy, so some highly detailed images may require large file sizes. For visual works, we recommend JPEG, but group photographs must be JPEG, TIFF, or GIF, and all deposit copies in any group must be the same file type. See list of allowed file types by the USCO.

Naming Your Titles

For reference, each individual work is referred to by us and by the Copyright Office as a Title (e.g., a group of 10 illustrations is 10 Titles). We urge everyone to use short, simple names for all Titles. Fewer than 20 characters is great; fewer than 50 characters is a good idea; and anything approaching 60 or more characters is likely chaos! A nice, clean format is Edison_May2022_001. There are a few hard rules about names, and these are:

  • Latin letters and numbers only.
  • No punctuation other than underscores. (e.g., ampersands are death!)
  • Each Title in a group must have its own name.

You will want to name your Titles before uploading them into a RightsClick Project. See the Getting Started Video on the RightsClick App page.

Things to Know Before You Register

Single Work Registration

Any type of work that is eligible for copyright protection can be registered as One Work, but (naturally) there are some rules. The most important rule is that, except for photographs, most published works may not be registered as a group and must be registered one at a time. There are some limited exceptions to this rule as described below.

Group Registration

For convenience and cost saving on processing fees, group registration options allow two or more works to be registered with one application. The rules vary depending on the type of work, and we provide more details on the work-specific pages below.

Creation Date(s)

Simply put, the Creation Date of a work is the date you completed the version of a work that you intend to register. That said, when preparing to register a group, especially a large group that may have been produced over a long period, the question arises as to how essential it is to specify the exact completion date of each work. To that end, here’s some guidance:

  • For unpublished works, it is permissible to submit the date of the most recently created work as the Creation Date for the entire group.
  • For published works, the Copyright Office requires the month and year, so if you remember a publication date of June 15th and it was actually June 13th, that’s okay.
  • In RightsClick, there are various ways to assign Creation Dates to All or Selected Titles in a given Project.

Published or Unpublished?

For registration, the Copyright Office asks whether the work(s) being submitted are published or unpublished. This presents two questions for many customers. The first is understanding the legal meaning of “published,” and the second (sometimes) is trying to remember when that work was first published, which is the date the Copyright Office wants to know.

While the meaning of “published” is a long and complicated tale, what we tell customers is that publication typically involves offering to distribute copies of the work to the general public, whether for money or not. The question of “publication” may involve the volume or reach to a general versus a limited audience, and if you are unsure, you should seek legal counsel. Typically, display of a work (e.g., on a website or in a gallery) is not considered publication. See the Glossary entry.

As for remembering when a work was published, do your best. The good news: thanks to a ruling by the Supreme Court, as long as you make a good-faith effort to get the right answer, the registration will remain valid even if it turns out you guessed wrong.

Limit of Claim

The Copyright Office asks you to disclaim any work submitted with a deposit copy that you did not create. For instance, a nonfiction book often contains photos the author did not make. Thus, the book registration limits the claim by telling the Office that those photos are not claimed by the writer. Limit of Claim is a simple checkbox screen. You do not need to prepare complex descriptions.

Authors & Claimants

An “Author” is the individual who creates a work that is protected by copyright, and in most cases, the Author is also the “Claimant,” meaning the party who claims ownership of the rights. But sometimes rights are transferred to other parties like spouses or children. If you wish to name a claimant other than the Author, you must tell the Copyright Office whether the transfer was effected by Written Agreement, Inheritance, or Other, and Other requires a short entry like “Contract for Sale.”

Joint Authors

When two or more people create a work, the work is “jointly authored,” and the names of all authors should be submitted with the copyright registration. As a matter of copyright registration, you are not asked to enter information about allocation of ownership among among joint authors. See Glossary entry.

Company Authors (Works Made for Hire)

An entity, like your production company, can be the legal author and owner of the work, and you may submit a registration application accordingly. It is your choice to list yourself as the human Author or your company as the corporate (WMFH) Author. The primary difference is the term of protection. The work of an entity is, by definition, a Work Made for Hire, which carries a copyright term of 95 years from date of first publication or 120 years from the date of creation. RightsClick does not offer advice regarding your choice to assign your business as the author.

If you did the work as an employee for someone else’s company, or as a commissioned work, the WMFH may mean that the employer/commissioning party is the legal Author/Owner of the copyright in the work. As such, you may not be entitled to submit a registration application for the work.

If you are uncertain about these concepts and how they may affect the status of work(s) you intend to register, please seek the advice of a copyright attorney.

Registration & Processing Fees (for RightsClick subscribers)

Registration Fees per ApplicationUSCORightsClickTotal
One Work by One Author (no limit of claim)$45$15$60
One Work by One Author (w/limit of claim)$65$15$80
One Work Made for Hire$65$15$80
Group Photo Applications of <100 titles:$55$15$70
Group Photo Applications of ≥ 100:$55$30$85
Group of Unpublished Works (max 10 per application)$85$15$100
Work by More Than One Author$65$15$80
RightsClick processing fees shown are for regular monthly subscribers. Fees for registration services without subscription may vary.

No. No. No. Mailing a copy to yourself and leaving the package sealed is NOT an alternative to registration. This myth that refuses to die provides zero legal protection.

Mailing a copy to yourself is not a substitute for copyright registration.

Yes, you may email us your copyright question, and we’ll do our best to answer, but RightsClick is not your attorney, and it does not provide legal advice.

Read Our Blog Posts About Registration

Reasons to Register with the Copyright Office (check relevance)

Why Retain the Copyrights if You’re Not Going to Register?

Why DIY Registration is a Good Idea

How to Register a Single Work With Several Photographs

What If a Registration Application is Rejected?