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How to Copyright a Video or Film (U.S.)

written by: •edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 5/19/2011

If you want to copyright your video or film project, it’s easy! Whether you’re registering an electronic form or a hard-copy form, here’s how to do it step-by-step!

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    Copyright Requirements

    First, visit the U.S. Copyright Office at:

    Browse the website and read through the PDF files, such as the basics behind Copyright and what copyright protects and how.

    Here’s what the U.S. Copyright Office Needs From You when Registering your video/ film project:

    -A completed application (one of the following): Form eCO - electronic Copyright Office, Form CO - Copyright or a PA form (performing arts)

    -Pay a non-refundable filing fee ($35.00 eCO, $50.00 Form CO or $65.00 PA form - to date, these are the current amounts.)

    -Special deposit requirements for registering a video/film:

    -Send a copy of the work (your video/film project, either hardcopy deposit and/or electronically). This will not be returned to you.

    -Since your work is a motion picture/ audio/ video work, you’ll need a description of its contents. (A written description is: a synopsis, press book, etc. Review form instructions)

    Once the Copyright Office receives all the above listed materials, the copyright of your work is effective, even though it will take a while to process and perhaps even several months to appear online. In time, you will also receive a hardcopy of the Copyright Certificate mailed to the address you’ve listed in the Correspondence Contact section of the form.

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    Step-by-Step Registering Instructions

    Registering With Form eCO*

    This is the preferred method because not only is it faster, but it’s also has a lower filing fee starting at $35.00.

    *NOTE: Basic registrations ONLY. To date only work(s) owned by the same claimant may be registered using Form eCO.

    -Go to

    -On the home page, in the right hand column, CLICK on the Electronic Copyright Office icon

    -Once on the eCO Online System page, it is recommended to read through some of the filing instructions first (these links are at the top of the page listed in red).

    -CLICK on the Electronic Copyright Office logo and read the Security and Privacy paragraph, hit [CONTINUE].

    Create a User ID and Password (second blue link, left-hand column).

    -Fill out the Webforms (2 Separate pages) with your name, login information, address, preferred contact method, etc.

    -Read the Usage Terms - CLICK [Next]

    -CLICK [Finish]

    You may get a message about needing to change your password. If so, hit continue and change it accordingly.

    - You’ll see a welcome page where you may view a Tutorial and/or read through some Tips

    - CLICK [Register a New Claim] (left column, just under Copyright Services)

    -You’ll see the 3 Steps needed to register your work broken down, exactly written as:

    Step 1: Complete an application

    Step 2: Make payment

    Step 3: Submit your work

    - CLICK [Start Registration] at the top to begin.

    - Be sure to read through the instructions on each page before filling them out, and hit [Continue] to navigate to the next page, and so forth.

    The eCO online form allows you to go back or forward and/or save what you already have in the system for later.

    -Follow instructions accordingly, whether you’ll be uploading an electronic copy or mailing a hardcopy of your work (see address on page two of this article).

    -After you’ve completed each step you should receive a confirmation page for your records.

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    Registering With Form CO

    Another method for filing your claim is to fill out the Form CO, which costs $50.00. The Form CO includes a 2-D barcode which makes registration even faster than the paper Form PA. After filling out the Form CO and printing, you’ll need to mail it to the U.S. Copyright Office (address below).

    To access Form CO, from the home page of the U.S Copyright Office, CLICK on [Forms] from the navigation bar.

    - CLICK [Form CO] You may also want to open the instructions just below this link to have them accessible while filling out Form CO.

    -Read through the instructions.

    - CLICK [Download Form CO] (link is at very bottom of page)

    -Complete the entire form before printing.

    - When you print the form, a 2-D Barcode will appear on each page. Make sure the Barcode is on each page before mailing.

    -A hand signature is required on line 8a.

    -Mail completed Form CO, along with a copy of the video/film project, a separate description, and a $50.00 check made payable to Register of Copyrights.

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    Registering With Form PA

    Form PA is no longer accessible online. However, if you still want to copyright your work this way, you’ll first need to contact a the Forms and Publications Hotline at (202) 707-9100. After leaving them your mailing address, you will receive the form in the mail, along with the specific instructions on how to fill out the form, along with shipping the hardcopy deposit(s), and pay instructions. This method takes much longer than any other registration method; in addition it now costs almost doubled than it did not even ten years ago.

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    Copyright Contact Information

    Send hardcopy applications and/or hardcopy deposits to:

    Library of Congress

    U.S. Copyright Office

    101 Independence Avenue SE

    Washington, DC 20559 - *****

    *(include 6238 for motion picture or audiovisual work)

    Copyright Office: (202) 707-3000

    Hours of operation:

    8:30AM - 5:00PM eastern time