What is a copyright?
copyright is a mark that indicates a form of protection provided by
the laws of the United States (Title 17 of the U.S. Code) to authors
of “original works of authorship” that are fixed in tangible forms of
expression. These include literary, dramatic, musical, and certain
other intellectual works, such as computer programs and Web sites. A
copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of
operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed.
What are “copyright registrations”?
Copyright registrations are a legal formality intended to make a
public record of the basic facts of a particular copyright. However,
copyright registrations are not a condition of copyright protection. Even though
copyright registrations are not a requirement for protection, the copyright law
provides several inducements or advantages to encourage copyright
owners to make registrations. Copyright registrations can only be done through the
U.S. Copyright Office.
How long does copyright last?
The Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, signed into law on
October 27, 1998, amends the provisions concerning duration of
copyright protection. Effective immediately, the terms of copyright
are generally extended for an additional 20 years. Specific provisions
are as follows:
For works created after January 1, 1978, copyright protection
endures for the life of the author, plus an additional 70 years. In
the case of a joint work, the term lasts for 70 years after the last
surviving author’s death.
For anonymous and pseudonymous works and works made for hire, the
term will be 95 years from the year of first publication or 120 years
from the year of creation, whichever expires first.
There are different terms for: (i) works created, but not published
or registered, before January 1, 1978; (ii) works created prior to
January 1, 1978, yet still in their original or renewal term of
copyright. If these circumstances apply to your work, you may need to
consult an attorney or the U.S. Copyright Office for additional
What works are protected by copyright?
Copyright registrations protect "original works of authorship" that are fixed in
a tangible form of expression. The fixation need not be directly
perceptible as long as it may be communicated with the aid of a
machine or device (for example, a computer or CD player).
Copyrightable works include the following categories:
musical works, including any accompanying words;
dramatic works, including any accompanying music;
pantomimes and choreographic works;
pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works;
motion pictures and other audiovisual works;
These categories are viewed broadly. For example, computer programs
may be registered as "literary works"; maps and architectural plans
may be registered as "pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works."
What works are not protected by copyright?
Several categories of material are not eligible for copyright
Works that have not been fixed in a tangible form of expression
(e.g., choreographic works that have not been notated or recorded;
improvisational speeches or performances that have not been written
Titles, names, short phrases, and slogans; familiar symbols or
Mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering, or
Mere listings of ingredients or contents;
Ideas, procedures, methods, systems, processes, concepts,
principles, discoveries, or devices, as distinguished from a
description, explanation or illustration;
Works consisting entirely of information that is common property
and containing no original authorship (e.g., standard calendars,
height and weight charts, and lists or tables taken from public
documents or other common sources).
What happens when copyright protection expires?
At the end of the copyright period the work goes to the public
domain and anyone can use it.
Can I protect my recipes with copyright registrations?
A list of ingredients is not protected under copyright law.
However, where a recipe or formula is accompanied by substantial
literary expression in the form of an explanation or directions, or
when there is a collection of recipes as in a cookbook, there may be a
basis for copyright protection.
Can I copyright the name of my band?
No. Copyright law does not protect names. Some names may be
protected under trademark law. c-Site does not offer trademark
Can I copyright a name, title, slogan, or logo?
Copyright does not protect names, titles, slogans, or short
phrases. In some cases, these things may be protected as trademarks.
c-Site does not provide trademark services.
What can I do if someone violates my copyright?
A party may seek to protect his/her copyright(s) against
unauthorized use by filing a civil lawsuit in U.S. District Court. If
you believe your copyright has been infringed, consult an attorney. In
cases of willful infringement for profit, the U.S. Attorney may
initiate a criminal investigation.
How much of someone else’s work can I use without permission?
If you use a copyrighted work without authorization, the owner may
be entitled to bring an infringement action against you. However,
under the “fair use” doctrine, it is permissible to use limited
portions of a work, including quotes, for purposes such as commentary,
criticism, news reporting, and scholarly reports.
Whether a particular use qualifies as “fair use” depends on all the
circumstances. There is no specific number of words, lines or notes,
or percentages of a work that may safely be used or taken without
permission. And, merely acknowledging the source of the copyrighted
material does not substitute for obtaining permission.
How to File Copyright Registrations
for only $14.95
To file copyright registrations through c-Site:
Log in to your customer account from our
registration home page and launch c-Site.
Complete the simple three-step application process. Most people
complete this process in less than 10 minutes.
When you are done, you will have submitted both your application
and an electronic copy of the work you want to protect with a
copyright registration. Upon receipt, your work is encrypted so as
to provide you the greatest possible protection.
c-Site reviews your application and work and contacts you with
any questions. (However, there is no guarantee the Copyright Office
will approve your application, nor is there any guarantee the
Copyright Office will not raise additional questions or issues
regarding either your application or work.)
c-Site then: (i) emails you a printable application and easy
filing instructions; and (ii) deletes your encrypted work from its
files. c-Site's services are then complete. (With Express Filing,
the services provided are more extensive.)
It is then your responsibility to file your application, work,
and the mandatory filing fee, with the Copyright Office.
Your application will then be in the hands of the Copyright
Office. If the Copyright Office has questions, it will contact you
directly. Note that it can take a few months for the Copyright
Office to issue a decision.
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