How to Copyright a Poem

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In the United States, under current copyright laws, the moment a poet creates a poem, and that work is "fixed in a copy or photorecord," the work falls under copyright protection. If the author needs to bring a lawsuit against someone who has plagiarized the work, the poet must first file a copyright registration. While a registration isn't necessary to assert you have rights, it is necessary prior to bringing legal action. Securing a registration before plagiarism occurs not only makes it easier to prove ownership, it can determine what type of damages may be awarded.

Things You'll Need

  • 2 envelopes
  • 2 postage stamps
  • Copy of poem
  • Pen
  • Request a copyright application by calling the U.S. Copyright Office, (202) 707-3000, or write to U.S. Copyright Office, 101 Independence Ave. S.E. Washington, D.C. 20559-6000. The forms can also be obtained at its website.

  • Make a photocopy of the poem you wish to copyright.

  • Prepare a check for a $45 payment.

  • Complete the copyright application.

  • Mail the application, a copy of your poem and the payment, to the return address specified in the copyright registration application form.

Tips & Warnings

  • Registration affords the owner of the copyright the right to record with the U.S. Customs Service for importation protection.
  • You also can file for a registration online by visiting the U.S. Copyright Office's website. Credit cards are accepted, fees are slightly less, and you must upload a copy of your work to the site.
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