What You Need to Know

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has plenty of information about copyright. For example, it is good to know the following information the USPTO includes in “Copyright Basics”:
“No publication, registration or other action in the Copyright Office is required to secure copyright. Copyright is secured automatically when the work is created, and a work is “created” when it is fixed in a “copy or a phonorecord for the first time.” For example, a song can be fixed in sheet music or on a CD, or both. Although registration with the Copyright Office is not required to secure protection, it is highly recommended for the following reasons:

  • Registration establishes a public record of the copyright claim.
  • Registration is necessary before an infringement suit may be filed in court (for works of U. S. origin).
  • If made before or within 5 years of publication, registration establishes prima facie evidence in court of the validity of the copyright and of the facts stated in the certificate.
  • If registration is made within 3 months after publication of the work or prior to an infringement of the work, statutory damages and attorney’s fees will be available to the copyright owner in court actions. Otherwise, only an award of actual damages and profits is available to the copyright owner.
  • Registration allows the owner of the copyright to record the registration with the U. S. Customs Service for protection against the importation of infringing copies.”

Basic Registrations

Registrations online

Single Application (single author, same claimant, one work, not for hire)
Standard Application (all other filings)



Registrations on paper

Paper filing on Form TX, Form VA, Form PA, Form SE, and Form SR


Do I Need to Have The Copyright Notice on My Work?

If your work was created after March 1, 1989, the copyright notice isn’t required, but placing the copyright notice prominently on your work is a smart move. The presence of the copyright notice warns anyone who sees it that you are claiming ownership in the material. This may deter potential infringers. You eliminate the “innocent infringer” defense commonly attempted by those committing copyright infringement.

The Copyright Notice

The copyright notice should always be placed on your work in an obvious spot. The copyright notice, which includes the copyright symbol, should look like this:

Copyright © 2016 [COPYRIGHT OWNER’S NAME]. All Rights Reserved.

The word “copyright” and the copyright symbol should constitute the first part of your copyright notice.

Following the copyright symbol is the date. You should insert the year in which your work was created (if you are copyrighting a collection of short stories, use the year that the last piece in the collection was created).

In place of [COPYRIGHT OWNER’S NAME] in the sample copyright notice above, you should insert the name or names of the copyright holder(s). This can be an individual, several individuals, a business entity, or the name of your band or organization. See Additional Information in the Resources section below.

Copyright terms

For works for hire, anonymous or pseudonymous works, the duration of copyright is 95 years from the first publication or 120 years from creation, whichever is shorter.

For works that are registered at the Copyright Office, the duration of copyright is 70 years after the death of the author.

How To

The USPTO site will walk you through the process. There is a financial advantage to filing on line using the eCO  Registration System. It is not complicated, so you can do it yourself.


The following links come from the USPTO Copyright site.

Getting Started: Trademark Patent or Copyright
USPTO Copyright Basics
Copyright Basics Presentation
What is copyright?
How long does copyright protection last?
Will my copyright protect me overseas?
US Copyright Office
Links for Musicians and Artists


Disclaimer: The information provided in this site is not legal advice, but general information on legal issues commonly encountered. FRESCO Services LLC is not a law firm, doesn’t provide legal advice or legal services, and is not a substitute for services of an attorney familiar with your situation.