The fee to register your copyright will depend on what you're registering and whether you're registering online or by mail.
For example, at the time of the writing of this article, the following fees were applicable for registration of copyright for a single work of authorship:
- Online registration: $45
- Print registration: $125
These fees are subject to change so check the current schedule of fees to obtain the correct payment required to register your copyright.
Are other fees or costs associated with copyrights?
If you have problems filling out the registration form, whether you're filing online or using a paper form, or if you have a more complicated copyright situation—for example, you're one of several creators of collaborative work—you may want to consult with an intellectual property attorney. Your overall costs would then, of course, be higher.
Additionally, if someone infringes on your work and you decide to launch an infringement lawsuit, you will need to pay the fees or costs associated with that lawsuit. And if you're looking to generate an income by licensing your copyright, you will face additional costs to obtain legal advice to help you with the licensing process.
But for many people, the Copyright Office fees to register a copyright will be the only cost.
What is the process to register a copyright?
Even though you automatically own the copyright to your original, creative work, it's still a good idea to formally register your copyright. Among the main benefits of registering is the ability to bring a lawsuit against others for infringing on your copyright. For most people, this is sufficient reason to take the further steps necessary to register.
The good news is that copyright registration is a relatively easy process that can be done either online or by mail:
- Online registration. To register your copyright online, go to the U.S. Copyright Office website.
- Print registration. To register your copyright by mail, download the appropriate form from the Copyright Office's forms page. Fill out the form and send it in along with your payment.
Regardless of the method you use to register your copyright, you will need to complete your registration by fulfilling the mandatory deposit requirement. This requires you to send in two complete copies of the best edition of the work for which you're applying for copyright.
To simplify and make the process easier, you may decide to work with a copyright service. This can be a hassle-free way to file your copyright.
Can I get a copyright for free?
If you are a creator looking to obtain copyright for your creations, you may be surprised to learn that you automatically gain copyright for your original creative works from the moment that work is "fixed in a tangible form of expression."
This means that from the moment you set your creation down in some form of a permanent medium, you have copyright over it.
For example, while an improvised performance of a street dance that's not recorded in any way is too fleeting to be considered "fixed in a tangible form of expression," if you record your performance on film, you've captured it in a permanent enough form to qualify as being fixed. And in doing so, you automatically obtain copyright over that recorded performance.
So the answer to the question "Can I get a copyright for free?" is yes. In fact, obtaining copyright is automatic, and your copyright over your work arises from the moment your original work is expressed in a permanent medium.
But if you want enhanced protections that allow you to better enforce your rights and control how your copyright is used, then registering your copyright is essential.