Should You Formally Register Your Work With the US Copyright Office?

Did you know that your work is automatically covered by U.S. copyright law as soon as you set it in a fixed format? According to Title 17 of the US Code, all works are protected under copyright law from the moment they are placed in a fixed, tangible medium and can be perceived either directly (on paper, canvas, or other “solid” medium)¬†or with the aid of a machine or device (computer or e-device, if you will).
What does this mean? Well, essentially, you do not have to register your work with the Copyright Office in order to have some measure of protection. The law exists to help protect content creators and to help “promote innovation” in the community.
That said, you might want to formally register your work, as there are a number of benefits to this process:
-It establishes a public record of the copyright claim.
-If registered within 5 years of creation, it provides “prima facie” evidence of the validity of the copyright and the facts stated in the certificate.
-If registered within 3 months of creation or prior to infringement of the work, it will allow for statutory damages to be awarded to the copyright owner in an infringement suit.
And, perhaps most importantly:
-It allows an infringement suit to be brought forward.
You might be thinking: “Well, can’t I just mail my manuscript to myself via the U.S. Postal Service and therefore, as a government agency, I’m covered under copyright law?”
Unfortunately, all that this method will do is prove the date you mailed it to yourself on a certain date. There are no legal benefits to sending a manuscript to yourself in the mail, as the U.S. Postal Service is not an entity of the U.S. Copyright Office.
But don’t despair. Not only is the process of registering copyright easy, but it’s relatively inexpensive.
For example, for a simple registration (let’s say a book, with one author or artist), the fee is just $35 for registering online.
Perhaps the best part? You can do it on your own without a lawyer.
Why not protect your intellectual property?
More information on U.S. Copyright law and the Copyright Office may be found at:
**Originally published on the Know Your Rights Blog on March 17, 2017

Hello from MJ!

Hello, and welcome!

My name is MaryJo Slazak Courchesne (or “MJ” for short). I have been in publishing for more than 20 years, and have spent the bulk of my time serving as an expert in copyright, permissions, and subsidiary rights.

I was the Director of Subsidiary Rights at the National Geographic Society for nearly 15 years before departing to launch my own company, Gryphon Publishing Consulting ( I also spent 11 years as an Adjunct Professor in The George Washington University’s Master’s in Publishing Program, where I remain involved in GWU’s program in a support capacity even if not actively teaching.

I look forward to “meeting” you here and serving on the NAIWE Board of Experts. Feel free to drop me a line with questions you may have, or visit my website (above) for more information.