When it comes to intellectual property, how to copyright something is one of the more contested issues. The arguments aren't because it's hard to copyright something—it's actually because it's so easy. Technically, you own the copyright to your work as soon as you create it. It doesn't even have to be published to be protected. However, copyright protection can be extended through an official registration with the USPTO.

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How Do I Register My Copyright?

To register your copyright, you need to go to the eCO Online System, create an account, and then fill out the online form. There’s a basic fee of $35 if you file online. The processing times are generally faster if you apply online, but eFiling still takes between three and four months, according to Copyright.gov.  Alternatively, you can download the form from the Internet or pick up a copy at your small business administration office and mail it in. If you choose the offline route, you must pay a $65 fee. Paper forms generally take five to eight months to process.

Can I Just Mail it to Myself?

Copyright protection is fairly easy to obtain, but don't be fooled by the so-called poor man's copyright protection. This old trick has been running around for a while. Basically, it claims that if you take a copy of your creative work, seal it in an envelope, and then mail it to yourself, you'll have all the protections of a copyright registration. The Copyright.gov official site states that this is not recognized under law. While it's true that standard copyright protections still apply, you don’t get anything additional by mailing it to yourself.

Having your copyright registered makes it easier to prove and protect your work, so it’s often worth the small amount of effort and money that it takes to apply.

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