Based upon recent changes in the law, copyright
protection in the United States is automatic. When
the original work of authorship is fixed in a tangible
form of expression the rights associated with copyright
generally vest in the artist. The notice and the
registration of a work are formalities, which may
be required before obtaining and maintaining full
copyright protection. The registration and notice
requirements, although formally mandatory, are no
longer required. This change was enacted with the
recent changes to the 1976 Copyright Act.
Reduction of Formalities
In general, while retaining formalities, the 1976 law reduced the chances of mistakes, softened the consequences of errors and omissions, and allowed for the correction of errors. The Berne Convention Implementation Act of 1988 reduced formalities, most notably making the addition of the previously mandatory copyright notice optional.
There are three elements involved in the notice requirement:
1. the claim of copyright;
2. the year of first publication; and
3. the name of the copyright owner, or an abbreviation by which the name can be recognized or a generally known alternative designation of the owner.
Deposit and registration under the Copyright Act are separate though closely related. The function of deposit is to provide the Library of Congress via the Copyright Office with copies and phonorecords of all works published within the United States. Deposit may be accomplished without an accompanying registration. Deposit is required within three months after the date of publication within the United States of a copyrighted work.
The function of registration is to create a written record of the copyright ownership in a work. Registration necessarily requires an accompanying deposit. To register a copyright claim, an author or other copyright owner must submit a deposit of the copyrighted material, a completed application form, and an application fee to the Copyright Office.