Should I copyright my own work, or use an intellectual property attorney to help me?

Remember that although works of authorship generally obtain copyright protection when they are fixed, in practice, you must still register your copyright with the U. S. Copyright Office to enforce your rights or to use the copyright to secure an obligation. Copyright registration is designed to be a simple process. In fact, it was originally the intent of the copyright office to make it so accessible that attorneys would not be needed in the registration process. With this in mind, it is very simple to fill out and file the form yourself.  

Before making an appointment with an intellectual property attorney, review the form and determine whether you feel able to fill it out. Aside from the form, you will be required to pay a filing fee and submit two or more copies of your work. These copies are kept on file with the copyright office for future reference should anyone attempt to copy your work. 

In addition, if you are planning on working with a specific agent or publisher, you will not need an attorney to obtain your copyright. If your work is finished before you sign on with an agent, fill out the standard form and submit it for protection. Then, when you negotiate with a publisher, they will instruct you on their terms, especially as to whether they require you to turn over the copyright and collect a sum up front, or if you keep your copyright and they keep a percentage of your profits. 

There are some occasions when consulting an attorney is a good idea. For instance, if your work was created by more than one author. If you think your work may have commercial value, it would make sense to protect that value. Discussing the many important Intellectual Property-related issues such as how to market the work, how to license the work without "giving it away," and your rights in foreign countries could help you maximize your work’s value and help you avoid significant problems down the road. 

Consulting an experienced intellectual property attorney early in the process is usually a wise investment. If you have already set up a specific business with a business attorney, you could also consult with that attorney as most business and corporate attorneys also file intellectual property paperwork for their clients.