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What is Involved in the Copyright Process?

By M. Lupica
Updated May 17, 2024
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The copyright process involves three things: a completed application form, a filing fee and a copy of the work to be registered with the copyright office. There are two main methods of filing for copyright. The first is using an online form, and the other is mailing in paper forms. Online forms are the preferred and most common method as well as the most beneficial for the filer.

Using the online form to go through the copyright process can give the filer several benefits. First, there typically is a lower filing fee and a faster processing time. It also allows anyone filing for a copyright the ability to track the status online and secure payment through a credit or debit card as well as upload the copy of the work to be registered directly to the copyright office.

There are specifications about the copy of the work to be filed with the copyright office, called the “deposit.” If the work has not been published, a complete copy or recording usually must be deposited. Any published work typically must have two copies or recordings deposited with the copyright registration.

There are some cases in the copyright process in which a deposit has special requirements. A motion picture deposit usually must have a complete copy of the motion picture and a separate written description of its contents, such as a synopsis. Any work published solely as a recording generally must be deposited as a complete recording. Any computer program deposited typically must be in the form of a copy of the first 25 and last 25 pages of the source code. Lastly, if the work is in the form of a compact disc (CD), then the deposit usually must be in the form of one copy of the CD as well as any accompanying manuals.

The copyright process is over after the copyright office receives all of the necessary materials in a form that it deems acceptable. If the application was filed online, the filer will receive an email notifying him or her that the application is received. If a paper application was filed, the filer will not receive a notification that it was received. In either case, the filer will receive a letter, a phone call or an email if more information is required or the application has been rejected. If the filer’s copyright application is accepted, he or she will receive a certificate of registration indicating that the work has been copyrighted.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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