Copyrights FAQ

What copyright services are available?

HERRANENLAW assists clients with the protection of original literary, musical and performing works.  These services include:

  • Reviewing all materials presented for purposes of copyright registration
  • Advising clients regarding proper use of copyright notice
  • Filing applications for copyright registration with the Library of Congress
  • Assisting clients with resolving copyright infringement issues

Do I need a copyright registration?

If you have an original creative work such as a book, menu, website, movie, show, computer program, art work, photograph or the like, then you may wish to register your work with the U.S. Copyright Office.  It is not required. You have a copyright by virtue of having created the work.  However, if you wish to bring a lawsuit for infringement, you will need to register.  

Because the work must be registered before you file a lawsuit, it is best to register the work immediately.  It can take 1 to 6 months for a copyright to register if the application is submitted online, with the average processing time being 3 months.  For applications submitted by mail, it can take 1 to 16 months, with the average processing time being 6 months. 

I need a copyright much quicker, is that possible?

Expediting copyright registration is possible with the payment of a fee of $800 on top of the usual application fee.  Expedited application can take 1-2 weeks to register.

What is the benefit of registration?

Registration of a copyright provides the following benefits:

  • Create a public record of your copyright
  • Receive a certificate of registration
  • Before an infringement suit may be filed in court, registration (or refusal) is necessary for US Works
  • Registration establishes prima facie evidence of the validity of the copyright and facts stated in the certificate when registration is made before or within five years of publication.
  • When registration is made prior to infringement or within three months after publication of a work, a copyright owner is eligible for statutory damages, attorneys’ fees, and costs. 
  • Registration permits a copyright owner to establish a record with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for protection against the importation of infringing copies. 

What is a copyright notice?

A copyright notice is a statement placed on copies or phonorecords of a work to inform the public that a copyright owner is claiming ownership of the work. A copyright notice consists of three elements: 

  • 1. The copyright symbol © or (p) for phonorecords, the word “Copyright,” or the abbreviation “Copr.”
  • 2. The year of first publication of the work (or of creation if the work is unpublished) and 
  • 3. The name of the copyright owner, an abbreviation by which the name can be recognized, or a generally known alternative designation. 

A notice should be affixed to copies or phonorecords of a work in a way that gives reasonable notice of the claim of copyright. 

Do I need to use the circle C symbol ©?

Using a copyright notice is optional for unpublished works, non-U.S. works, and works published on or after March 1, 1989. However, notice conveys the following benefits:

  • It puts potential users on notice that copyright is claimed in the work. 
  • For published works, notice may prevent a defendant from attempting to limit liability for damages or injunctive relief based on an “innocent infringement” defense. 
  • It identifies the copyright owner at the time of first publication for parties seeking permission to use the work. 
  • It identifies the year of first publication, which can be used to determine the term of copyright for anonymous or pseudonymous works or works made for hire. 
  • It may prevent the work from becoming an “orphan” by identifying the copyright owner or specifying the term of copyright. Orphan works are original works of authorship for which prospective users cannot identify or locate copyright owners to request permission.   Notice was required for works published in the United States before March 1, 1989.  Works published without notice before that date may have entered the public domain in this country. 

How long does a copyright last?

In general, for works created on or after January 1, 1978, the term of copyright is the life of the author plus seventy years after the author’s death. If the work is a joint work with multiple authors, the term lasts for seventy years after the last surviving author’s death.  For works made for hire and anonymous or pseudonymous works, the duration of copyright is 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation, whichever is shorter. 

I have many works, can I register all in one application, or what is the most economical way to register a group of works?

The answer depends on the type of work you are registering.  If you are registering a copyright on photographs, you may register up to 750 photos with one application and one filing fee.  For most other works, registering a group of unpublished works is the most economical way to register most copyrights.  As of this writing, the filing fee charged by the Copyright Office is $85 for a group of up to 10 unpublished works.  By contrast, the fee for an application for a single published work by one author is $45. 

What are the criteria for registering a group of works?

The eligibility criteria for this group application are:

  • 1. All the works must be unpublished.
  • 2. You may submit no more than 10 works (for example: 10 poems or 8 drawings or 4 songs).
  • 3. You must submit the same types of work, such as a group of songs or a group of drawings  (for example: the application may be used to register 10 poems, but it cannot be used to register 1 poem, 1 song, 1 video, and 1 drawing).
  • 4. All the works must be created by the same author or the same co-authors, and the author and claimant for each work must be the same person or organization.
  • 5. On the Authors/Claimants screen, you must select a term from the drop-down menu that describes all of the works, and you must select the exact same term for each author and each work
  • 6. You must provide a separate title for each work.
  • 7. You must upload a digital copy of each work.
  • 8. The file name for each work should match the title you provide in the application (for example: If you are registering two songs titled "The Bachelor Party" and "The Wedding Party" each song should be uploaded in a separate digital file named "the_bachelor_party.mp3" and "the_wedding_party.mp3.”)

What is the difference between a copyright, trademark and patent?

A copyright protects the expression of an idea, such as books, music and paintings.  Trademarks protect the name, symbol, design or other identifier used to indicate the source of a product or service.  Patents protect an idea, process, machine, design, and composition of a product.

Is there an international copyright?

There is no such thing as an “international copyright” that automatically protects an author’s works throughout the entire world. Protection against unauthorized use in a particular country depends on the national laws of that country. Most countries offer protection to non-U.S. works under certain conditions, and these conditions have been greatly simplified by international copyright treaties and conventions. Generally, a U.S. work may be protected in another country if that country has entered into an international agreement with the United States.


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