What is the copyright registration process?

Registration with the Copyright Office includes the filing of a copyright claim application, payment of the registration fee, and deposit of at least 2 copies of the work. Accelerated registrations are available for a fee that is substantially higher than that charged for routine registrations.

There are several different copyright forms available and you must use the form corresponding to the type of work for which protection is being sought:  

  • The TX form is meant for literary works. Literary works are defined as any non-theatrical written works. Examples of literary works include books, magazine articles, newspaper articles, blog entries, and written advertisements. Works can be published either onto paper or online. 
  • The VA form is meant for visual arts. Visual arts or fine arts are non-literary artworks. Examples of visual arts include sculptures, posters, paintings, photographs, statues, and movies. For visual arts, a picture of the work is sufficient for protection. 
  • The PA form is meant for performing arts. Performing arts include dance, plays, and musicals. A script or performance guide must be submitted to the copyright office for this type of registration. 
  • The SR form is meant for sound recordings. This includes all forms of music and vocal recordings. A copy of the sound recording must be submitted with the form. 
  • The SE form is meant for programming languages and mathematical text. This includes computer programs, hardware design, interface coding, and any other numerical sequences. A copy of the program must be submitted for copyright registration and it is not given the same level of protection as other forms of copyright due to the repetitiveness of programming languages. 

Most copyright forms can be submitted either electronically or by mail, but some are required to be submitted only by mail. Mail-only submissions include any group contribution works, daily newspapers or newsletters, databases, or groups of photographs. Additionally, computer chip mask works and any pre-release works must also be submitted with a paper form instead of electronically. If you are submitting a mail-only form, make sure that you print the form on both sides of the paper and print the pages to a one to one ratio, as per the copyright department’s website. If you are confused by the copyright office forms or are unsure which form your work falls under, contact a copyright attorney for assistance.