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Copyright Law protects Artistic and/or Literary creations, such as books, music, films, paintings, sculptures, and photographs.  Copyright is inexpensive and the protection lasts a relatively long time.

Please select from the following topics for additional detail:

Brief Historical Background

Copyright Law protects "original works of authorship," and derives its authority in the USA from the United States Constitution, which creates the Federal Government's right to legislate regarding Copyright and Patent:

"Congress shall have Power . . . To Promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times, to Authors and Inventors, the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries."

The United States Constitution, Article I, Section 8, Clause 8.

Little is known about what the Framers of the Constitution had in mind in adopting this provision, for it was done in a secret proceeding late in 1787, and note that that constitutional language does not even employ the term "Copyright" (or "Patent"). Nonetheless, the provision seems to suggest that the dominant purpose of the Framers was to promote the creation and dissemination of knowledge so as to enhance the public welfare. This goal is to be achieved through provision of an economic incentive: a monopoly right given for "limited Times," whose direct beneficiary is the "Author."

Since those times, the "Law of Copyright" has protected the exclusive right of Authors to reproduce copies of their books and other writings. Today, copyright covers much broader ground, including not only most literary, artistic, and musical works, but architectural works and computer software and databases as well.

The information industries are critically important to the American (and global) economy in its post-industrial stage. Taken together, a selected sample of core copyright "industries" (including pre-recorded music, motion pictures, home videos, books, periodicals, newspapers, and computer software) have annually since 1991 generated foreign sales greater than any other sector of the U.S. economy except for aviation and agriculture. Today, for example, U.S.-produced software alone constitutes well over half of the world market.

Such developments indicate clearly the growing international importance of intellectual property. The transfer of information, in any form, has become an ever greater component of international trade, and is the centerpiece of U.S. competitiveness. Unlike other areas of the U.S. economy, where intellectual property is concerned, the United States is a net exporter, and, indeed, the world's largest exporter by far. Today, U.S. Intellectual Property law "reflects the fact that the basis for the economy is shifting from an industrial, mechanistically, based economy to an information-based economy, and the way you protect the innovation of the information age is through the Intellectual Property system," declares Q. Todd Dickinson, new Commissioner of Patent and Trademarks, as quoted December 10, 1999 in the Washington Post.

If all of this historical background and present-day emphasis on Intellectual Property makes you excited about protecting your works and contributing to the world welfare and economy, the news gets even better! Copyright costs only $30, can cover multiple works for the same fee, and lasts a very long time (up to 50 years after the death of the Author). Read on!

 Types (Classes) of Copyright

The Library of Congress Copyright Office classifies and grants Copyrights into the following categories according to subject matter, as follows:

Performing Arts (PA) - For registration of published or unpublished works of the performing arts, including 1) musical works, including any accompanying words; 2) dramatic works, including any accompanying music; 3) pantomimes and choreographic works; and 4) motion pictures and other audiovisual works.

Literary (Textual) Works (TX) - For registration of published or unpublished non-dramatic literary works, excluding periodicals or serial issues, but including fiction, nonfiction, poetry, textbooks, reference works, directories, catalogs, advertising copy, compilations of information, and computer programs. For periodicals (such as magazines) and serials (such as newspapers), use form SE.

Sound Recordings (SR) - For registration of published or unpublished sound recordings. This form can be used where the copyright claim is limited to the sound recording itself, and may also be used where the same copyright claimant is seeking simultaneous registration of the underlying musical, dramatic, or literary work embodied in the phono-record.

Visual Arts (VA) - For registration of published or unpublished works of the visual arts. This category consists of "pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works," including two-dimensional and three-dimensional works of fine, graphic, or applied art, photographs, prints and art reproductions, maps, globes, charts, technical drawings, diagrams, and models.

Use the Serial (SE) form for periodicals and serials, and for CA for correction of errors on a previously filed (other) form.


Copyright can protect a wide variety of works for a very long period of time at very little cost to the Author. While registration is no longer required in the United States, registration with a third-party, Governmental authority for such a low fee makes a lot of sense, especially if proof of authorship is necessary to preserve ownership rights in the event of such litigation as an infringement suit or the like.

Because Copyright is relatively straightforward and inexpensive, we usually recommend that Authors simply contact the Copyright Office directly at 202-707-3000 or online at www.loc.gov/copyright/. 

Please Note:  The Copyright Office has been experiencing delays in receiving their mail over the last 6 months due to the anthrax scare in October 2001.   If you have submitted a Copyright within the last 6 months and your check has not been cashed, please contact the Copyright Office at 202-707-3000 or cancel your check and re-submit your Copyright.  To ensure delivery, we recommend that you send your documents to the Copyright Office by a private carrier (Fed Ex, UPS, etc.).   For more details regarding mail delays, please visit the Copyright Office website at http://www.copyright.gov/mail.html

Remember, however, that Copyright does not protect names of businesses, products, or services (see Trademark) or inventions (see Patent).

For more personalized information, please call COPYSEARCH Worldwide at 1-800-296-9080.

If you need assistance in researching a Copyright, please contact COPYSEARCH Worldwide at 1-800-296-9080 for our 
Copyright Search fees.

[ Registering a Trademark ] [ Obtaining a Copyright ] [ Getting a Patent ]

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