To copyright your work means to get a type of protection afforded by the federal government to creators of certain types of intellectual property. You do not have to register your work to be protected by copyright law. When you create a literary work, piece of music, play, film, or artwork or architectural concept, you can copyright it simply by using the familiar ©, with your name and the year. You can use that symbol or the word “Copyright” on a title page, but in a manuscript or loose-leaf work, it is often placed at the bottom of every page.
The owner of a copyright has the exclusive right to reproduce and distribute that work or create derivative works based on the original material. You can’t copyright an idea as such, only the visual, tangible representation of that idea, such as a book. You also can’t copyright a book title, although you might be able to trademark it if you coin a term in the title. For instance, there are probably hundreds of books entitled Trees, and you could not prevent anyone from using the same commonly used words you probably use in your title.
Current copyright law bestows copyright protection from the moment of creation through the creator or author’s life plus seventy years. To get full protection and be able to sue for copyright infringement, you do need to register that copyright with the Copyright Office of the United States.
To register your copyright, see the U.S. government Web site at www.copyright.gov. Send the following in one package: • A completed application, either Form TX or Short Form TX, found on the Web site under Copyright Registration: Literary Works • A $45 payment to "Register of Copyrights" • Nonreturnable copy(ies) of the material to be registered
Send the package to: Library of Congress Copyright Office 101 Independence Avenue, S.E. Washington, D.C. 20559-6000
You have 3 months from the time of printing to apply for copyright registration, but your registration becomes effective on the day that the Copyright Office receives your application, payment, and book in acceptable form. It will take from 4 to 6 months to receive a certificate of registration.