By eHow Contributing Writer
As soon as you write your story, print your photograph or record your music, you have a copyright. However, you may want to take additional measures to establish your copyright in case you ever have to prove ownership of your work. Any original creative work should be copyrighted as soon as it is recorded in some tangible way.
Add a copyright notice to your work. Adding a copyright notice protects you against claims by infringers that they did not know the work was copyrighted. For visually perceptible works, such as short stories or written music, use the following format: the word copyright followed by the year of creation and the name of the creator. You may use the copyright symbol, the letter C inside a circle, in place of the word "copyright" if desired. If your work is unpublished, you may also add this notation to the beginning of the notice. For audio recordings, use the symbol for phonorecords, the letter P inside a circle, in place of the usual copyright symbol or word.
Register your copyright. This establishes a public record of your copyright and is necessary before you can bring an infringement case to court. Send a completed application form appropriate to the work you are copyrighting, the registration fee and two copies of the work to the U. S. Copyright Office.
Consult with a copyright attorney. It is not necessary to use an attorney to register a copyright, but it may be helpful if the work was created before 1978, if someone has infringed on your copyright or if someone is claiming you have infringed on their copyright.
Publish your work. If your work has been published, the publisher should have applied for a copyright on your behalf as part of copyrighting the publication. This is normally done 3 months after publication. Check with your publisher to make sure you know which rights were granted to the publisher and which you still retain.
Consider a Creative Commons license: Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that allows copyright owners to grant some rights to the public while retaining others.
Copyrighting Your Work 101, by Nick Popio
United States Copyright Office
Writer's Guild of America, West
Writer's Guild of America, East
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