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Frequently Asked Questions about Copyright

The Copyright Office offers introductory answers to frequently asked questions about copyright, registration, and services of the Office. Click on a subject heading below to view questions and answers relating to your selection. Links throughout the answers will guide you to further information on our website or from other sources. Should you have any further questions, please consult our Contact Us page.

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Also see our FAQs for online registration.

Copyright in General

What is copyright?
What does copyright protect?
How is a copyright different from a patent or a trademark?
When is my work protected?
Do I have to register with your office to be protected?
Why should I register my work if copyright protection is automatic?
I’ve heard about a "poor man's copyright." What is it?
Is my copyright good in other countries?

What Does Copyright Protect?

What does copyright protect?
Can I copyright my website?
Can I copyright my domain name?
How do I protect my recipe?
Can I copyright the name of my band?
How do I copyright a name, title, slogan or logo?
How do I protect my idea?
Does my work have to be published to be protected?
Can I register a diary I found in my grandmother's attic?
How do I protect my sighting of Elvis?
Does copyright protect architecture?
Can I get a star named after me and claim copyright to it?

Who Can Register?

Can foreigners register their works in the United States?
Can a minor claim copyright?
Can I register a diary I found in my grandmother's attic?

Registering a Work

How do I register my copyright?
Where can I get application forms?
Can I make copies of the application form?
Can I file online?
What is the registration fee?
Do you take credit cards?
Do I have to send in my work? Do I get it back?
Will my deposit be damaged by security measures in place on Capitol Hill?
May I register more than one work on the same application? Where do I list the titles?
Do I have to use my real name on the form? Can I use a stage name or a pen name?
Will my personal information be available to the public?
How long does the registration process take?
Can I submit my manuscript on a computer disk?
Can I submit a CD-ROM of my work?
Does my work have to be published to be protected?
How much do I have to change in my own work to make a new claim of copyright?
Do you have special mailing requirements?


What is preregistration? What works can be preregistered?
What classes of works are eligible for preregistration?
Is preregistration a substitute for registration?
Will I need to make a regular registration after my work is completed?
When should I register my work if I have already preregistered it?
How do I preregister?
What is the effective date of my preregistration?
How do I complete a preregistration application?
You ask for a description in the preregistration application. What should it include?
Will I receive a certificate for my preregistration?
What is the fee for preregistration?
What methods of payment are accepted for preregistration?
What does ACH (payment) mean?
Do I receive a password from the Copyright Office to log into the eCO website to preregister my work? Or do I create my own password?
What are the password requirements that I should follow when I create my password?
How do I change my password?
What do I do if I forgot my password?

Which Form Should I Use?

Which form should I use?
What is the difference between Form PA and Form SR?
I want to copyright my business name. Which form do I use?
Which form do I use to register an automated database?
Which form do I use to register a computer software application I am creating?
...is there a form to submit to change the address on my applications?

I've Mailed My Application, Fee, and Copy of My Work to the Copyright Office. Now What?

How can I know when my submission for registration is received by the Copyright Office?
How long does the registration process take, and when will I receive my certificate?
I just received my certificate of registration. Why can't I find my work listed on your database?
I've been getting solicitation letters from publishers. Is the Copyright Office selling my personal...

How Long Does Copyright Protection Last?

How long does a copyright last?
Do I have to renew my copyright?

Can I Use Someone Else's Work? Can Someone Else Use Mine?

How do I get permission to use somebody else's work?
How can I find out who owns a copyright?
I found someone infringing a copyrighted work that I registered. Can the Copyright Office help me stop this?
How can I obtain copies of someone else's work and/or registration certificate?
How much of someone else's work can I use without getting permission?
How much do I have to change in order to claim copyright in someone else's work?
Somebody infringed my copyright. What can I do?
Could I be sued for using somebody else's work? How about quotes or samples?
Do you have a list of songs or movies in the public domain?
I saw an image on the Library of Congress website that I would like to use. Do I need to...
Is it legal to download works from peer-to-peer networks and if not, what is the penalty...
Can a school show a movie without obtaining permission from the copyright owner?

My local copying store will not make reproductions of old family photographs. What can I do?

Assignment/Transfer of Copyright Ownership

Are copyrights transferable?
Do you have any forms for transfer of copyrights?

Copyright and Digital Files

Can I backup my computer software?
Can I buy or sell backup copies of computer software?...
Can I copyright my website?
Can I copyright my domain name?
Is it legal to download works from peer-to-peer networks and if not, what is the penalty...

Information about the Copyright Office

What is your telephone number?
What is your mailing address?
What is your street address?
What are your hours of operation?
How do I get on your mailing or email list?

Services of the Copyright Office

Are you the only place I can go to register a copyright?
Can you provide me with copies of my application and my work?
I lost my certificate. Can I get a new one?
Can you tell me who owns a copyright?
Is the Copyright Office open to the public?
Does the Copyright Office give legal advice?
How do I get my work published?
How do I collect royalties?
How do I get my work into the Library of Congress

Mandatory Deposit

What is mandatory deposit?
We are a foreign publisher. Do we need to submit our publication to comply...
What is the difference between mandatory deposit and copyright registration?
Where do I send my published works to comply with mandatory deposit?
If I choose to register my copyright, should I use the same address that I use for...
Is there an exception to mandatory deposits?
If my publication does not have a copyright notice, do I still have to deposit?
What is the difference between the mandatory deposit obligation and the CIP obligation?
Will my Cataloging In Publication (CIP) copy fulfill my mandatory deposit obligation?
If I send deposit copies of a sample issue of my serial publication to the Register of Copyrights...
I have already deposited identifying material to register my computer software...

Newspapers on Microfilm

Do I still need to submit a copy of the 35mm silver positive to apply for the copyright registration...
Can we still register our copyright with the Copyright Office if the Library of Congress does not...
What are the requirements for applying for the newspaper group registration?
How do I register my daily newspaper through group registration?
Since copyright protection exists when the work is created, is it necessary to apply...


Who is an author?
What is a deposit?
What is publication?
What is a copyright notice? How do I put a copyright notice on my work?
What is copyright infringement?
What is peer-to-peer (P2P) networking?
Where is the public domain?
What is mandatory deposit?
What is a work made for hire?
What is a Library of Congress number?
What is an ISBN number?
What are some other commonly used terms?