How Do I Copyright My Own Work?

Works for Hire

If you are an employee of Empire State College, your contract dictates the conditions and terms under which the College owns the copyright of works you create as a part of your job responsibilities as an employee of the College. The UUP contract states that employees are subject to Article XI Title J Section 2 of the Policies of the Board of Trustees of the State University of New York (page 22) governing copyright.

A work is copyrighted automatically.

You hold the copyright to anything you create that is not a work for hire. Copyright is limited to works of original authorship. That means that what you create must have some element of your own creativity or brain-work (not just data, but a particular arrangement or interpretation of data.)

Your work is copyrighted as soon as you have written it, created the art object, recorded the performance, or saved the computer file. At that moment, without doing anything else, you legally have the exclusive right to control reproduction, distribution, performance, and display of your work. You don’t have to publish it, submit it to any government office or agency, or mail a copy to yourself for it to be copyrighted. You do not have to put a copyright notice on your work. You do not have to do anything at all to have legal copyright!

However, there are advantages to registering your copyright

Registering your copyright creates a public record. You only need to register your copyright once; however, some authors choose to re-register the work when it is published or published in a new edition.

If you want go to court to defend your copyright against infringement, you must register your copyright. Your case will be easier if you registered your copyright before the infringement took place, preferably within three months of the work’s creation.

Once your copyright is registered, you can submit it to the U.S. Customs Service, and they will prevent the importation of infringing copies.

Registering your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office

The U.S. Copyright Office charges $45.00 to register a copyright. You will need to fill out a form and submit one or more copies. Which form and how many copies varies with the type of work. Information can be found under Registration Procedures. The registration comes into effect the day that the U.S. Copyright Office receives your application. You will receive a certificate or else notification that you need to submit more information or that your application has been rejected. Your copy or copies will be deposited with the Library of Congress.

The copyright notice

Copyright notices are not required for unpublished works and have not been required for published works since 1989. However, a copyright notice prominently displayed on all copies of your work is a convenience for your readers and will make your life easier if you ever have to defend your copyright against infringement in court.

The standard form for a copyright notice is the c in a circle symbol, followed by the date of first creation or publication and the name of the copyright holder. For example:

(c) 2009 Empire State College

GO BACK > Copyright: What You Need To Know > Making Good Copyright Decisions


One thought on “How Do I Copyright My Own Work?

  1. Pingback: Making Good Copyright Decisions « Empire State College Online Library

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