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Copyright Resources to Support Publishing and Teaching

A guide for faculty, staff, and students at Penn about how to obtain, manage, and understand copyright issues for their work

register copyright

Should I Register for Copyright?

As noted in the Copy(right)s: The Basics section, registering for copyright is not necessary in order to have copyright protection over your works - copyright is immediate for original works in a fixed, tangible form. There are, however, some benefits to formally registering for copyright, and these should be taken into consideration when deciding whether or not to formally register your copyright.

Benefits of Formally Registering for Copyright

Formally registering for copyright mostly gives you more legal protection should you need to bring suit against an infringer. Here are the general benefits to formally registering for copyright:

  1. Establish a formal public record of your work
  2. File an infringement lawsuit
  3. Establish prima facie evidence in court of the copyright's validity (must register within 5 years of creation)
  4. Ability to receive statutory damages and attorney's fees in court actions (must register within 3 months or prior to infringement)
  5. Ability to record copyright with the U.S. Customs Service to protect against the importation of infringing copies

For more information on the benefits of registering for copyright, see the "Copyright Registration" section (p.5) of Circular 1, Copyright Basics.


How to Register

If formal registration of copyright seems best for your work, go to the US Copyright Office's Registration Portal and choose the type of work you want to register for copyright. You can either register for copyright online (processing time 6-10 months) or using a paper form (processing time 10-15 months). 

A single application (one work by one author) costs $45 to register online. Other fees may apply. For a full list of fees, see the US Copyright Office's Fees page. 

Mandatory Deposit

You will be required to submit two copies of your work in order to be registered. The copy must be the "best edition" of the work you wish to copyright and will not be returned. See Circular 7d for more information on mandatory deposit.


For some unpublished works being prepared for commercial distribution, you can preregister for copyright. Preregistration does not substitute for registration and does not carry many of the same benefits of full registration, such as providing prima facie evidence; preregistration simply acts as a placeholder indicating an intent to register. If you have preregistered your work and become aware of a copyright violation, you must register for copyright within one month of becoming aware of the infringement. See Preregistration FAQ for more information.

For any other questions, see's FAQ for registering a work.


For more information on registering a work, see the US Copyright Office's "Registering a Work" page. 

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