- R. Scott Kimsey
How Do I Get a Copyright?
"How do I get a copyright?" is a question I hear a lot from authors and artists. The answer is simple: you get it automatically, when you create your work. To be more specific, the law automatically grants a copyright to the author of a work as soon as that work is set down in a "tangible medium of expression." That requirement is satisfied as soon as the work is captured in a form sufficiently stable to allow it to be perceived, reproduced, or communicated in some other fashion. In other words, as soon as you've saved it to your computer hard drive, written it on a notepad, painte
d it on a canvas, developed it as a photograph, saved it in your phone's memory, or done any of a number of other things that capture your artistic expression.
What people often mean when they ask this question is "how do I register my copyright?" That's a separate issue altogether, and is also easily accomplished. You can go to the U.S. Copyright Office web site and use the eCO (electronic Copyright Office) service offered there, or you can hire a copyright attorney to handle the process for you.
Copyright registration creates a public record of your copyright in your work. You can register your copyright at any time during the life of your copyright, but there are good reasons to register within three months of publication. If someone is infringing your copyright, you will need a registration to go after them in court, and if you registered your copyright within three months of publication of the work, the law grants you additional remedies when going after infringers.