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A copyright exists immediately upon the original creation and fixation thereof. You do not need to take any additional steps to claim a copyright. In other words, you can immediately place the familiar © on your work. However, in order to state a claim for infringement you will need to have a federally registered copyright. See 17 USC §411(a). Hence, it is important to register a copyright as soon as possible after creation. Delaying registration may severely limit the amount of damages that can be awarded in the event there is a finding of copyright infringement. See 17 USC §412.

The filing fee paid to the U.S. Copyright Office to obtain a copyright is currently $45. The Copyright Office does not go through any detailed examination process before issuing a copyright. This means that, in virtually all cases, registration of a copyright only requires the filing of the appropriate forms and fees. This process can take at least 8 months or longer. Note that the Copyright Office will require all forms to be filled out correctly. With even one error, the form will be returned to the filer. However, an error will not jeopardize the issuance of a copyright, it will just lengthen the process.

For additional information published by the U.S. Copyright Office: