How to copyright protect a document

Written by pam murphy
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Your original document is protected under copyright law automatically from the moment you create it in a tangible form, according to the U.S. Copyright Office. Copyright law provides that the owner has the exclusive right to reproduce the work, distribute copies and to perform or display the work publicly, as established in the 1976 Copyright Act. Formal registration, however, establishes a public record of your copyright and also provides you with a certificate of registration. Recording your copyright is required if you plan to bring an infringement lawsuit, according to the U.S. Copyright Office.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy


  1. 1

    Complete an electronic copyright application. The U.S. Copyright Office recommends that you take advantage of faster processing times and lower filing fees by using the online application. Access the electronic application at, by following the link to the Electronic Copyright Office.

  2. 2

    Submit the correct filing fee with your electronic application. The basic fee for an electronic copyright claim is £22 and can be paid by credit or debit card, electronic check or a Copyright Office deposit account.

  3. 3

    Upload or mail your documents for copyright registration. Once you have submitted your payment, press "Next" and choose "Upload Deposit" if you want to submit your document electronically. If you prefer--or are required--to mail your document, click "Submit Your Work" once you have received your payment confirmation. Choose "Send By Mail" and then click the "Shipping Slip" link to create a shipping label.

Tips and warnings

  • You may also register a document by using the Copyright Office fill-in form or by requesting traditional paper forms, but the basic fees are higher at £32 and £42, respectively. You can get these forms through the U.S. Copyright Office website.

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