Registering Your Copyright

Registering Your Copyright

The U.S. Copyright Office registers several different kinds of work. A general overview of the different kinds appears below.

Literary Work

This refers to nondramatic literary work: written work not meant for performance of any kind, excluding a periodical or serial issue. Literary Works include a wide variety of works: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, textbooks, reference works, directories, catalogs, advertising copy, compilations of information, computer code and databases.

Work of the Visual Arts

Visual Arts works include two-dimensional and three-dimensional works of fine, graphic, and applied art, photographs, prints and art reproductions, maps, technical drawings and architectural works. Copyrightable text that accompanies a visual arts work can also be registered on the same application.

Work of the Performing Arts

Performing Arts works can include musical work (with or without lyrics), a dramatic work like a screenplay, play or other script, a pantomime, or a choreographic work. Works of Performing Arts that also include a sound recording, are considered Sound Recording Works.

Sound Recording Work

A Sound Recording work results from the fixation of a series of musical, spoken, or other sounds. The author of a sound recording is the performer(s) whose performance is fixed, or the record producer who processes the sounds and fixes them in the final recording, or both.

Exception: Under copyright law, the sounds that accompany an audiovisual work (for example, a motion picture) are not defined as a Sound Recording but rather as a Motion Picture/Audiovisual work.

Sound Recording registration can include both the sound recording and the underlying recorded musical, dramatic, or literary work(s), along with the sound recording of the work(s). Note: To register both the sound recording and the underlying work on a single application, the copyright claimant must own all rights in both works.

Motion Picture/Audiovisual Work

A Motion Picture or Audiovisual Work can include a feature film, documentary film, animated film, television show, video, videogame, or other audiovisual work. An audiovisual work is a work that consists of a series of related images that are intended to be shown by the use of a machine or device, together with accompanying sounds, if any.

  • Definition of a Copyright
    A copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States to authors of "original works of authorship." This includes literary, dramatic, musical, artistic and certain other creative works. Material not protected by copyright (or otherwise protected) is available for use by...
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  • Works Protected by Copyrights
    A copyright gives certain exclusive rights to persons who create original works of authorship, including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic and certain other intellectual works. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works. Copyrightable works include the following...
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  • Advantages of Registering Your Copyright
    The advantages of registering a copyright include the following:
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  • Copyright Holders
    In general, only the creator (the "author") of an original work (or someone to whom the copyright has been lawfully transferred) can register a copyright. However, if the author prepared the work within the scope of his or her employment or if the work falls into certain special categories and was...
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  • Scope of Copyright Protection
    Copyright protection generally gives the copyright's owner the exclusive right to do the following:
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  • Obtaining Copyright Protection
    The securing of copyright protection is frequently misunderstood. Copyright is secured automatically when a work is created. A work is "created" when it is fixed into a book, tape or electronic medium for the first time. For example, a song can be fixed in sheet music, a digital tape or both. No...
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