How to Claim and Register Copyright – Information for Writers, Poets and Authors

Claiming and registering your published work isn’t as expensive and time-consuming as you may believe. It is an important step in securing ownership that every writer should consider.

Many authors and writers are familiar with the proper placement of their copyright policy and notice on their published and unpublished works, but many fail to follow through with the extra step of registering their work with the United States Copyright Office. Although it is not a requirement nor a necessity, it is an important final step in securing a published work in the Library of Congress and provides an added protection to your work should it ever be plagiarized.

It is important to note that there is no international copyright protection. Therefore, each piece of work must follow the guidelines for registration of those countries in which the work appears. A simple online search for each country’s copyright registration office will turn up the information needed to proceed.

In the United States, any work that was created on or after January 1, 1978, is automatically protected from the moment of creation, and effective for the length of the author’s life, plus 70 years. For publications “for hire,” and those works created using a pseudonym or for anonymous works, the length is extended to 95 years from the date of publication or 120 years from creation whichever is shorter, and only if the author’s identity has not been revealed in official US Copyright Office records.

Registration establishes an official public record of your work, and if ever needed, provides proof to the court that you are the rightful owner of the copyright should you discover someone has stolen your work, or published it elsewhere without your permission. Many authors and writers bypass the process of registering their books and other publications because they feel it is not necessary and an added expense. However, many writers and other artists have found themselves in the position of defending their copyright and enduring a lengthier legal process of proving they are the rightful copyright owner unnecessarily. If they had officially registered their work, there would be a public record point of reference to use to enforce removal of unauthorized use of their work.

The investment in copyright registration is minimal for this important protection of literary works, a fact often overlooked by authors and writers. Most do not research the information before self-publishing. Online copyright registration is currently set at only $35 for basic claim of an original work (paper registration via mail is $65). A hard copy (print) or electronic copy of the work is required to be deposited with the US Copyright Office, to finalize registration and to receive certification. Overall, the process is simple and inexpensive. It should be considered by every author, especially prior to self-publishing. Some unpublished works are also eligible for pre-registration in the US, and information on this can be found on their website or by speaking to staff.


United States Copyright Office:

Circular #1:


© 2013 Cairenn Rhys

Leave a Comment

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s