If you are a small business owner, you know that your business’s intellectual property has significant financial value. Businesses have several legal tools to protect their IP, including copyright protection. 

Learn more about when and how to copyright your company’s documents and products. 

Items that qualify for copyright protection 

Under U.S. law, only certain items can receive a copyright. This includes any original creative work written by someone and released in a tangible, expressive medium. While you cannot copyright strategies, ideas or concepts, you can write a book or manual describing these items and then copyright the printed work. Some common items that you may want to copyright include magazines, brochures, blog posts, e-books, your business website and written information provided to customers and clients. 

Registering your copyright 

Your work is automatically copyrighted as soon as you put pen to paper or fingers to keys. However, you can also federally register your copyright for additional protection. Doing so creates a certificate of registration and puts the details of your copyright into public record. Having a registered copyright also allows you to sue a third party who infringes on your copyrighted material. Your federal copyright remains in effect until 70 years after your death. 

You can request a copyright online for written work under the literary works section of the federal copyright website. You must send copies of your work along with the application, and these will become publicly available as part of the copyright process. The cost for copyright registration is $35 for basic copyright of a work for which you are the sole author, or $55 for a co-authored work. 

When the U.S. Copyright Office receives your application, you will receive a notification through email. Three months is the average processing time for a copyright, but the entire process can take between one and six months from start to finish. Electronic claims are much more efficient than paper claims.