What Is Copyright Protection?

Copyright protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture. Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed. Copyright protection is pursued by filing an application for registration with the United States Copyright Office in Washington, DC.

The Copyright Office will issue a certificate of registration if certain requirements are satisfied. The work must be fixed in a tangible form of expression and created by a human author. The work must also possess at least some minimal degree of creativity. A work is fixed when it is captured in a sufficiently permanent medium such that the work can be perceived, reproduced, or communicated for more than a short time.

While registration of a work is voluntary, there are many good reasons for immediately doing so. One reason is that a registered work may be eligible for statutory damages and attorney’s fees in successful litigation.

Is a copyright registration issued by the U.S. Copyright Office enforceable in other countries?

A registration issued by the U.S. Copyright Office will not automatically protect a work throughout the world. However, many countries offer protection to foreign works under certain conditions specified by treaty or convention. Absent a treaty or a convention, protection may still be possible if permitted by a country’s national laws.

What are the steps in a typical process for securing copyright rights in the United States?