Copyright Forms

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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Copyright protection covers both published and unpublished original creative works--whether artistic, literary, musical, and scientific. It means, at its simplest, that if you can see it, hear it, or touch it, it can be protected. This includes traditional and newer media and expressions, from photography to recorded music to computer programming code to digital art. Copyright laws not only cover the original work, but reproductions, derivative works, performances, and displays.

The notion of copyright in the United States was first introduced by James Madison on August 18, 1787, when he recommended that a copyright provision be included in the Constitution. The first U.S. copyright law was enacted less than three years later. The Copyright Office was not organized as a separate entity until 1897.

The office--a service of the Library of Congress--has registered more than 30 million copyright claims since 1870. Copyrights today extend 50 years. Office staff, who number about 500, process on a given year as many as 1.5 million registrations, in total, for recorded titles, masked works (semiconductors), and other creative works.

Registering for a U.S. Copyright

Registering a copyright with the office requires a $30 fee, a nonreturnable copy of the work, and a completed application form (whether an original obtained from the office or a facsimilie). Electronic copies of works--that is, on a CD or other digital media--are not accepted. Credit cards are not yet accepted, but online registration is scheduled for sometime in 2005. Registration usually takes from four to six months. An exhaustive list of requirements is available online from the Copyright Office. Forms and information are available from a number of other sources as well, and are sometimes easier to get ahold of.

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