Note: While the information contained in this post is not intended 
to be legal advice, we hope it helps empower you 
to make informed decisions regarding your content.

In the US, copyright protection exists for 
an original work once it’s created in a fixed form. 
You don’t need to register a copyright to your work 
for copyright protection, but copyright registration 
does offer certain advantages.

Some advantages include:

• For US works, registration is necessary for a copyright infringement suit to be filed in court.
• Registration creates a public record of your copyright. This may be helpful for a number of reasons. One example is that it can help you prove your copyright ownership to a work if there’s a dispute over the work. Copyright registration may also be useful in preventing your work from being considered an orphan work.
• Copyright registration may help establish evidence in court of the validity of your copyright.
• Statutory damages and attorneys’ fees may be available to the copyright owner in a court action (as opposed to only an award of actual damages and profits).

How to Register Your 
Copyright in the US: 
An Overview

File an application for copyright registration 
with the Copyright Office:
• By mail (http://www.copyright.gov/forms/formva.pdf); or
• Through the Copyright Office’s online registration system, eCO (https://eco.copyright.gov)

Pay the non-refundable registration fee:
• For mail filings, the fee is $65.
• For eCO filings, the fee is $35.

Provide a deposit (a copy of the work(s) 
being registered):
• For mail filings, you will have to send a hard copy of the
works to the Copyright Office.
• For eCO filings, you may upload the works through the eCO system (or mail the work in by hard copy, if necessary).

Save Time and Money: Registering Multiple Works Electronically

The Copyright Office allows you to register multiple works in a single application, with a single filing fee. This is useful to know because it can help save you time and money registering your works.

In order to register multiple works under one application, the works have to meet either of these requirements:

1. The works are all by the same author, all owned by the person registering the works, and are all unpublished works.

OR

2. The works are all published by the same person registering the works.

Registering a copyright on a lion statue
Lion Statue in Chinese Temple by leungchopan

What Is the Difference 
between a Published and Unpublished Work?

Under the Copyright Act, “Publication is the distribution of copies […] of a work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, 
or by rental, lease, or lending. The offering to distribute copies […] 
to a group of persons for purposes of further distribution, public performance, or public display constitutes publication.”

On the other hand, an unpublished work is a work that has not been distributed by sale, transfer, rental, lease, or lending, or which is not offered for further distribution, performance or public display.

Although the status of your work as published or unpublished is highly dependent on a number of factors, here are some examples you can follow:

Published
• Lending a work for display in a museum exhibit
• Submitting content to a stock agency for display and/or distribution

Unpublished
• A work posted to a private website for personal viewing
• A drawing in a personal sketchbook that has not been offered for any other uses

A Quick Overview of Registering Your Work Online

Once you’re registered for an account on eCO and log in, this is the main page you will see. In order to register your copyrighted work or works, click on “Register a New Claim” under the “Copyright Registration” bar to the left of the page:

How to register a copyright claim

You will then be prompted to answer a few questions to start filling out the application. Please note that you have the option of registering one work or multiple works.

Copyright registration process

You will then be directed to a page (regardless of whether you are registering one or multiple works) that shows all the sections of the application on the left. You will know what page you are working on by looking at the red arrow on the left of the page.

For example, below is the first page of the application: “Type of Work.” Using the dropdown on the bottom of the page, you would choose the type of work or works you are registering. The left side of the page shows a red arrow on the “Type of Work” page to indicate that is the page you are working on.

Copyright type of work

After pressing “Continue,” the next page is “Titles.” Below is what the “Titles” page looks like if you are only registering one work. The title of the work is entered into the box we have outlined in red, below.

If you are registering multiple works, you must create a new entry for each work, and they will appear in list format at the bottom of the page, 
as indicated by the arrows below.

Copyrighting multiple works

Once all of the pages of the application have been filled out, an application will be generated for you that looks something like the below image. Notice that each of the sections on the left of the screen constitute different parts of the copyright application.

After you submit your registration, you will be prompted to pay for your copyright application(s).

Copyright registration payments

Some Tips for Registering Multiple Works Electronically

Registering multiple works does not need to be time consuming. You can save time by regularly saving batches of work and scheduling dates to register them electronically.

For example, let’s say that you decide to register your works every four months. During those four months, you can save the files of all work you wish to register onto a folder on your computer. Be sure to save the files in a format that meets the Copyright Office’s requirements:

• The format of the file you wish to upload must be 
one of the types listed here: 
http://www.copyright.gov/eco/help-file-types.html

• You have a 60 minute upload time before the session times out, which may limit the size of files you can upload. It is recommended that you compress files by converting them to ZIP format so that you can upload your files more easily within this time frame.

When it comes time to register your works, you should easily be 
able to upload these files with your application. For more information about uploading electronic files with your copyright registration in eCO, please see: http://www.copyright.gov/eco/faq.html.

For more detailed information on how to register your copyright, go to copyright.gov.

This article is adapted from the Shutterstock “Protecting Your Content” Guide. To download the complete guide, click here.

Top Image: Caerlaverock Castle Reflecting On The Moat That Surrounds The Castle by Targn Pleiades