1. What does copyright protect?
Copyright protects original works of authorship including literary,
dramatic, musical, and artistic works such as poetry, novels, movies,
songs, computer software and architecture. It does not protect facts,
ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect
the way these things are expressed.
2. When is my work protected?
Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created
and fixed in a tangible form so that it is perceptible either directly
or with the aid of a machine or device.
3. What is mandatory deposit?
Copies of all works under copyright protection that have been published
in the United States are required to be deposited with the Copyright
Office within three months of the date of first publication.
4. Why should I register my work if copyright protection is automatic?
Registration is recommended for a number of reasons. Firstly, registration
establishes a public record of the copyright claim. Secondly, registration
is necessary for works of U. S. origin before an infringement suit
may be filed in court. Thirdly, if registration occurs within five
years of publication, it is considered prima facie evidence in a
court of law. Fourthly, registered works may be eligible for statutory
damages and attorney's fees in successful litigation. Finally, registration
allows the owner of the copyright to record the registration with
the U. S. Customs Service for protection against the importation
of infringing copies.
5. How long does the registration process take?
The time the Copyright Office requires to process an application
varies, depending on the amount of material the Office is receiving.
If your application is in order, you may generally expect to receive
a certificate of registration within approximately 4 to 5 months
6. Can foreigners register their works in the U.S.?
Any work that is protected by U.S. copyright law can be registered.
All works that are unpublished, regardless of the nationality of
the author, are protected in the United States. Works that are first
published in the United States or in a country with which the United
States has a copyright treaty or that are created by a citizen or
domiciliary of a country with which the U.S. has a copyright treaty
are also protected and may therefore be registered with the U.S.
7. Who is an author?
Under the copyright law, the creator of the original expression
in a work is its author. The author is also the owner of copyright
unless there is a written agreement by which the author assigns
the copyright to another person or entity. In cases of works made
for hire, the employer or commissioning party is considered to be
8. What is a work made for hire?
It is a work prepared by an employee within the scope of his or
her employment; or a work specially ordered or commissioned in certain
specified circumstances. When a work qualifies as a work made for
hire, the employer or commissioning party is considered to be the
9. What is publication?
Publication, as defined by the Copyright Act, is the distribution
of copies or phonorecords of a work to the public by sale or other
transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending. The offering
to distribute copies or phonorecords to a group of persons for purposes
of further distribution, public performance, or public display constitutes
publication. A public performance or display of a work does not
of itself constitute publication.
10. Does my work have to be published to get copyright protection?
Publication is not necessary for copyright protection.
11. Are copyrights transferable?
Yes. All or part of the rights in a work may be transferred by the
12. How long does copyright last?
For works created after January 1, 1978, copyright protection will
endure for the life of the author plus an additional 70 years. In
the case of a joint work, the term lasts for 70 years after the
last surviving author's death. For anonymous and pseudonymous works
and works made for hire, the term will be 95 years from the year
of first publication or 120 years from the year of creation, whichever
For works created but not published or registered before January
1, 1978, the term endures for life of the author plus 70 years,
but in no case will expire earlier than December 31, 2002. If the
work is published before December 31, 2002, the term will not expire
before December 31, 2047;
For pre-1978 works still in their original or renewal term of copyright,
the total term is extended to 95 years from the date that copyright
was originally secured.
13. What is a copyright notice? How to put a copyright notice
on my work?
A copyright notice is an identifier placed on copies of the work
to inform others of copyright ownership. It is optional. Use of
the notice is the responsibility of the copyright owner and does
not require advance permission from, or registration with, the Copyright
14. What can I do if someone infringed my copyright?
You may seek to protect your copyrights against unauthorized use
by filing a civil lawsuit in Federal District Court. If you believe
that your copyright has been infringed, please consult our attorneys.
15. Is my copyright good in other countries?
The United States has copyright relations with more than 100 countries
throughout the world, and as a result of these agreements, the parties
honor each other's citizens' copyrights. For a listing of countries
and the nature of their copyright relations with the United States,
please click here.
16. Who is handling my case if I retain Z&A?
Our attorneys handle their clients' cases individually by preparing
petition letters, contacting clients, and following up pending cases.
That's why we have more attorneys than clerks. Our clerks' main
objective is to help attorneys prepare clients' packages, and each
client's package will be reviewed by one of our most experienced
attorneys for final checking before sending out the package to the
What Works are Protected
Who Can Claim Copyright
for Receiving Copyright Protection
Rights and Limitations
Duration of the Rights
Frequently Asked Questions about Copyright