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Q.How do I copyright protect my work?

A.A common misperception is that something must be done for Copyright protection to exist, e.g. mailing the work to yourself, or registration with the United States Copyright Office. This is simply false. In fact, copyright protection automatically exists from the moment of creation for any work that satisfies the originality and fixation requirements. In other words, the copyright is secured automatically when the work is "created." A work is "created" when it is fixed in a copy or phonorecord for the first time.

A "copy" is any material object from which a work can be read or visually perceived either directly or with the aid of a machine or device, such as books, manuscripts, sheet music, film, videotape, or microfilm. "Phonorecords" are material objects embodying fixations of sounds (excluding, by statutory definition, motion picture soundtracks), such as cassette tapes, CDs, and LPs. Thus, for example, a song (the "work") can be fixed in sheet music ("a copy") or in a phonograph disk ("phonorecord"), or both.

Although copyright protection automatically exists, and although copyright registration is no longer required to protect a published work, there are significant benefits afforded to the copyright owner who registers his or her copyright with the United States Copyright Office, one being that you cannot bring an action for infringement unless you have registered your work with the Copyright Office.

In addition to registering your work with the Copyright Office, you should also apply the proper copyright notice to your work.

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