Once you’ve written a literary work, you’ll want to copyright it, no matter what type of work it is. In terms of the U.S. Copyright Office, literary works refer to just about anything in written format, including novels, nonfiction, poetry, speeches, short stories and online works. Regardless of how you plan to publish your literary work, including going through an established press or self-publishing, a copyright can give your work the protection it needs from infringement.
Benefits of Copyrighting Your Literary Work
Material is automatically covered under copyright protection after it is created, even if you don’t register the copyright. If you do need to sue for infringement, having a copyright registration in place can streamline the process and help you get the recompense you deserve. While it’s not necessary to register a copyright, there are distinct advantages for doing so, such as:
- The registration acts as a public record for your copyright claim.
- For U.S. works, registration is necessary before infringement suits can be filed in court.
- Registration establishes the validity of your copyright in court, as well as the facts you’ve stated in the certificate, if you register within five years of publication.
- If you register within three months after you publish the work, or before anyone infringes the work, you can seek attorney’s fees and statutory damages in court. Without the registration, you can only claim damages from the actual loss you suffered.
Your registration can be made at any time during the copyright. Before 1978, literary works had to be re-registered after publication, but that is no longer necessary. You can, however, register the published edition separately, if you desire.
Steps for Registering Literary Your Work
There are a few simple steps for registering your work with the U.S. Copyright Office.
Step 1—Make Sure It’s a Literary Work
Literary works can be published or unpublished. They include nondramatic textual works (not screenplays, for instance) either with or without illustrations. Databases and computer programs also fall under literary works. Other types of literary works are speeches, reference works, textbooks, catalogs, directories, games, advertising copy and automated databases. Serials and periodicals have their own rules for copyright registration.
Step 2—Assemble the Paperwork
Put the following into an envelope or package:
- A completed application, either Form TX or Short Form TX.
- A fee made out to “Register of Copyrights.”
- A nonreturnable copy of the material, as follows:
- One copy for unpublished works.
- Two complete copies from the best edition for published works.
- One complete copy of the first international edition for works that were first published outside the U.S.
- For a contribution to a collection, one complete copy of the collected work’s best edition, or a copy of the individual contribution as published in the collection.
Step 3—File Electronically
Alternatively, you can file your application online. You’re likely to get a quicker decision this way, and you’ll save yourself time and hassle. Regardless of how you apply, your registration is effective starting the day the U.S. Copyright Office receives the application, your payment, and the acceptable copies. As long as your submission is complete, you’ll receive a registration certificate in four to five months.
How Long Your Copyright Will Last
If you created your work after January 1, 1978, copyright protection is applied automatically from the moment it was created. Most often, the copyright will last during the author’s life and 70 years after death. If the work was created by two or more people, the copyright lasts 70 years after the last person’s death, as long as none of the writers were considered “work for hire.” For a work that was made for hire, and for any work that was written anonymously or under a pseudonym, the copyright lasts 95 years after publication or 120 years from its creation, whichever is shorter, unless the Copyright Office records have the identity of the author.
Copyrighting your literary material with a formal registration is beneficial for any business, company or individual.
The content on our website is only meant to provide general information and is not legal advice. We make our best efforts to make sure the information is accurate, but we cannot guarantee it. Do not rely on the content as legal advice. For assistance with legal problems or for a legal inquiry please contact you attorney.