Copyright Protects Original Works of Authorship

What does copyright protect?

Copyright, a form of intellectual property law, 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.

See Circular 1, section What Works Are Protected —

How do I reach the Copyright Office and where do I get application forms?

The Public Information Office telephone number is (202) 707-3000.
To order application forms, the number is (202) 707-9100.
The mailing address is:
Copyright Office, Library of Congress, 101 Independence Avenue, S.E., Washington, D.C. 20559-6000.

Hours of service are 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. eastern time, Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays.

You may get forms from the U.S. Copyright Office by mailing in a request, or by calling our 24-hours-per-day forms hotline: (202) 707-9100.
Forms may also be downloaded from

Why should I register my work if copyright protection is automatic?

Registration is recommended for a number of reasons. Many choose to register their works because they wish to have the facts of their copyright on the public record and have a certificate of registration.

Registered works may be eligible for statutory damages and attorney’s fees in successful litigation. Finally, if registration occurs within five years of publication, it is considered prima facie evidence in a court of law. See Circular 1, section Copyright Registration

How do I register my copyright, how long does it take?

To register a work, you need to submit a completed application form, a nonrefundable filing fee, and a non-returnable copy or copies of the work to be registered — see Circular 1, section Registration Procedures. The time the Copyright Office requires to process an application varies depending on the amount of material the office is receiving.

You may generally expect a certificate of registration within approximately 8 months of submission. Generally, each work requires a separate application — see Circular 4.

How long does copyright last?

The terms of copyright are generally extended for an additional 20 years. Specific provisions are as follows:

For works created after January 1, 1978, copyright protection will endure for the life of the author plus an additional 70 years. In the case of a joint work, the term lasts for 70 years after the last surviving author’s death.

For anonymous and pseudonymous works and works made for hire, the term will be 95 years from the year of first publication or 120 years from the year of creation, whichever expires first.

For works created but not published or registered before January 1, 1978, the term endures for life of the author plus 70 years, but in no case will expire earlier than December 31, 2002. If the work is published before December 31, 2002, the term will not expire before December 31, 2047.

For pre-1978 works still in their original or renewal term of copyright, the total term is extended to 95 years from the date that copyright was originally secured.

Source: SBA For further information see Circular 15 (PDF file) at

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