As an author, you have the right over any creative written work you do, including stories, books, manuscripts, poetry, song lyrics, and even articles. These days, copyright even extends to blog posts and various content found in different media. Technically, any form of writing is automatically copyrighted the moment it is published. Therefore, if you have a newspaper article, it is copyrighted under your name once it is published. If you have a blog post, you automatically own rights the moment it is published online. The same goes for other content, unless you have an agreement with the publisher otherwise.
Legally, though, you might have to pursue other measures to make sure your content is properly copyrighted. This includes copyright for unpublished works, like manuscripts and other material that has not yet been printed, transmitted or published in any online or offline medium. In these cases, you would have to register with the US Copyright Office.
US Copyright Office. The best place you can get a copyright for your original writing is from the US Copyright Office. This government agency will give you legal rights to any piece of work that you can prove to be original. These include both published and unpublished works. In particular, authors benefit from being able to copyright their works even before publishing.
Electronic submissions. The Copyright Office runs an electronic submission service at copyright.gov. You can sign up for an account, so you can submit original writing in compatible formats (DOC, PDF, TXT, and others). The fee for online submissions is $35.
Downloadable mail-in forms. You can also download forms for printing out, which you can then submit by mail to the Coypright Office. The downloadable form contains a 2-dimensional bar code that will help identify your application for speedier processing. You will need to enclose a check or money order for $50 to pay for processing.
Paper forms. Some material can still be submitted via paper submission, such as visual arts, literary works and performing arts. Forms for this type of submission can be requested from the Copyright Office staff, and will be sent via mail upon payment of $65 (check or money order).
The Copyright Office usually verifies your work for originality, and will check it against their record of existing submissions. Depending on the volume of their work and the nature of your submission, application can take several months to be processed. The Copyright Office may also get in touch with you if they need any additional information or clarifications about your submission.
After submission. Once you have submitted your work for consideration by the US Copyright Office, you can follow up the status of your application via phone or email. You will also be given a certificate that you’ve applied or registered your copyrighted work. Keep this in a safe place, so you can prove ownership of the work, in case any legal disputes arise.
Copyrighting your work will help protect you from infringements by other individuals or entities in various ways. For instance, no company can use your work for their own purposes without your express permission. No other individual can use your work in their own works (or pass it off as their own work), unless this is under fair use.