The creator of an original work that is entitled to copyright protection owns the copyright as soon as the work is fixed in a tangible medium of expression. In other words, once the original work is created the copyright exists. For example, an artist has a copyright in his or her work as soon as their painting, drawing or sculpture has been created. At that point, with nothing more being done, it is not legal for anyone to copy that original work.
Original works which are entitled to copyright protection, however, may be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. There are benefits to registration, which will be discussed in a future blog post. The Copyright Office procedures are designed to make it simple for the creator of copyrightable work to handle the registration themselves. Electronic registration is available through the U.S. Copyright Office and is relatively simple. The applicant follows a series of screen prompts, pays by credit or debit card, electronic funds transfer or by a Copyright Office deposit account, and uploads a digital copy of the work or prints out a shipping slip to be attached to the work for delivery by the U.S. Postal Service. Upon registration, the work will appear in the Copyright Office's searchable database and will entitle the copyright holder to the additional benefits that come with registration.