A copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States of America for original works of authorship. Such works can include architectural, audiovisual cartographic, choreographic, dramatic, graphic, literary, musical, pantomimic, pictorial, and sculptural creations.
Copyright protection does not extend to protect an idea, procedure, process, system, title, principle, or discovery. Copyright law also does not typically protect an expression that does not meet a creativity threshold. For instance, names, titles, slogans, familiar symbols (e.g. basic geometric shapes like a triangle or a square), mere variations of typographic ornamentation (e.g. having a short text be in a cursive font) and listings ingredients are often not subject to copyright.
Application for Registration Needed for Enforcement
A copyright is protected under U.S. law when a sufficiently creative expression is fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Examples of copyright-able works include paintings, books, software, graphics used in user interfaces of devices and graphical images that may be displayed such as computer games or video games.
To enforce a copyright in the U.S., the copyrighted work must have been registered with the U.S. Copyright Office under 17 U.S.C. § 411. Therefore, while a copyright may exist upon the creation of a work, that copyright may not be enforced until the U.S. Copyright Office has received an application for registration of the work, found the work to warrant registration and issued a copyright registration to the work.
Obtaining a copyright registration also has other advantages. For instance, registration provides a right to obtain attorney fees and statutory damages from an infringer for actions that infringer took after registration of the work. 17 U.S.C. §§ 504-505
Applying for a Registration
The application process for applying for a copyright registration is relatively straightforward. The U.S. Copyright Office website provides application forms with instructions on how to fill out those forms at http://copyright.gov/forms/.
Additionally, the U.S. Copyright Office provides an e-registration system that allows an author or copyright owner to file an application for a copyright registration via the internet at http://copyright.gov/eco/.
The fee charged for filing an application for a copyright application varies depending on different circumstances. The U.S. Copyright Office sets forth the fees charged for filing of applications at http://copyright.gov/docs/fees.html