Where the designer is working for their own benefit, regular copyright registrations should be part of a designer's working schedule. Those who create works that are customarily licensed such as illustrators, photographers, and digital designers who retain ownership of their works can file multiple works in one application as a collection, thereby reducing the cost of protecting each work to a nominal sum. It is not an understatement to say that failing to register your work is almost equivalent to giving them away.
The copyright office has initiated and prefers that applicants who file online use the Copyright eCO electronic filing system. If you are a first-time filer, you must create an account. However, in an attempt to make applications more accessible, they have reduced the process to such a degree as to render it confusing and, to the unwary, more problematic than panacea. The copyright office still offers and will accept its old paper forms (TX, PA, SR, CON, etc. and which can be found at http://www.copyright.gov/forms/), but charges $45 for accepting paper applications as opposed to merely $35 for electronically filed applications. Understanding how to fill out the forms is critical to having your application accepted by the copyright office. An application that is for improper subject matter, incomplete, or has errors will result in a rejection and will be difficult and time-consuming to correct. Here are some tips to avoid the most common problems encountered when preparing a copyright application. It is wise for the first-time applicant to download the printed forms since the instructions contain very useful information about the application process.
Use the right form. This seems easy enough. In fact the online application process asks you to select a type of work so that you can learn more about filing an application to register your particular work. Spend some time reviewing the selections since the best choice may not be obvious. For example, if your work contains both visual and sound recording elements, choose the type of application that is the most applicable. Remember, you can still protect the other original elements you wish to protect in the same application; you just have to clearly "claim" the other original elements later in the application.
One you select the type of work and select "continue," you will go to a screen where the Title of your work can be entered. You must select the button marked "NEW*" and you will then be required to select the "Title Type" and the "Title of the Work." If the work contains multiple original creative elements, such as motion and music, you could select a title type direct to the "Contents Title." Such as (by way of example only): "Graphics, Motion Graphics, Music, Lyrics, and Script for an Online Film." All of the original creative elements are disclosed, claimed, and identified in the contents Title. If you wish to also use the actual title of the film you could use the "Title of the Work Being Registered" and use this title: "Graphics, Motion Graphics, Music, Lyrics, and Script for an Online Film entitled 'Lawyers are never Funny'". You have accomplished the same task and also set out a title for your work. After you enter your title type and the actual title, select "save" and you will see the information you selected and entered.
Those applicants who are filing on their own behalf most commonly make a mistake in the "Authors" and "Limitation of Claim" sections. If you own your own business and the business is a corporation or an LLC, your business will own the copyright; the business should be named as the Author and Copyright Claimant and the work would be a "work made for hire." If you are an unincorporated business then name yourself as both the Author and Copyright Claimant.
The copyright office wishes to limit any copyright to those original elements created or owned by the copyright claimant. Any creative elements not created or owned by you should be identified in the Limitation of Claim section. However, once you enter any information directed to that which is not part of the work, you must also expressly identify those elements which you do claim as your own work. A few minutes spent organizing your thoughts, remembering dates and addresses will make the application process much easier.