If you’re like most business owners these days, you probably have a blog. Chances are your blog isn’t registered with the copyright office.
In this post, we’re going to explain why registering your blog with the copyright office is so important. And we’ll walk you through how to complete that registration application.
Without a copyright registration, someone can steal your blog content.
If you maintain a blog, you know all too well how much goes into it. You’re writing original content on a regular basis. That content is connecting your readers with you, your brand, and your business.
If someone stole your blog content, you’d have every right to be frustrated.
Here’s the thing though: without a copyright registration in place, there’s not much you can do about.
Hold up. Isn’t my blog protected by copyright laws when I create them?
True. According to U.S. laws, you have copyright ownership in your content when you publish it.
But here’s what trips up most bloggers: you can’t actually sue someone for copyright infringement without a registration or application in place.
Without a registration (or a pending application for a registration, there’s a circuit split on this), you don’t have the proof you will need to show that you are actually the creator and owner of the copyrighted work. While there are steps you can take without a registration in place, such as perhaps filing a DMCA copyright notice, even that notice can be countered easily without a registration in place.
But wait, I put that “©” symbol on the bottom of my site. Doesn’t that help?
Don’t get me wrong, using the © symbol can be a powerful way of claiming copyright ownership. It puts others on notice that you claim to own copyright protections.
But the © symbol doesn’t mean you have a registration. And again, without a registration, it’s difficult to enforce your rights.
Alright, you’ve convinced me. I should register my blog content with the copyright office. How exactly do I do that?
The good news is that registering copyrights is relatively easy and cheap to do, especially compared to registering trademarks.
The bad news is: blogs can be a particularly difficult thing to apply for with the copyright office.
Below is a general walkthrough of how you can register your blog posts with the copyright office. Note that there are some aspects to the application that can get complicated. If you have questions or would require further clarification about what to do in your situation, reach out to an attorney who is experienced in copyright law.
How to register your blog as copyright
Step 1: Create an account with the U.S. Copyright Office
First, go to the U.S. Copyright Office. From there, click on “Register | Register a Copyright“
Then click “Log in to the Electronic Copyright Office (eCO) Registration System“
This might be your first time registering a copyright. If that’s the case, click “If you are a new user, click here to register” to create an account.
Step 2: Start the Application
Once your account is created. You’ll see a screen that prompts you to choose how to start the application. You will want to click “Standard Application” under where it says “Register a Work.”
Then click “Start Registration.” Assuming your blog is primarily text-based content, under “Type of Work,” you’d choose Literary Work. Click the confirmation box and then Continue.
Now you’re in the “Titles” section of the application. Here’s where things can get tricky. Click “New*” and then choose “Contents Title” for type of work. You can title this however you want — it is a title for the blog as a whole. Then click Save.
Step 3: Open up your blog in another browser window. It’s about to get real.
Now that we’ve created a title for the blog post as a whole, it’s time to add in ALL OF THE titles of your blog posts. For each of these, the title type should be “Title of work being registered.”
(What we’re doing here is letting the copyright office know that we are really applying for a collection of works. Each individual blog post is really it’s own work.)
Eventually, under “All Titles” you will see a separate row for the main title of your blog as well as every blog post you currently have published.
This might take a while. Come back when you’re done. 😉
Ready to move onto the next step? Click “Continue.”
Step 4: Choose unpublished (probably).
This is an easy step but confused lots of people. At this point, the application asks if the works have been published.
The answer is probably no.
Don’t fight me on this. I know, you’ve technically hit publish on all of these blog posts.
The copyright office has a specific definition for the term “published.” Unless your blog posts include a way to download them (not just print them), then according to the copyright office the works are not published.
You will also need to provide the year in which you’ve created the content.
If this part confuses you, it’s best to reach out to an attorney.
Step 5: Get the author(s) right.
This part can be confusing.
If you are writing this blog as an individual, answer the questions as an Individual Author.
If your blog is a part of your business, answer the questions as an organization. Note that if you answer as an organization, you MUST answer yes to the question “Is this author’s contribution a work made for hire?“
You will then check the boxes for the types of content the author created, which can include text, computer program, photographs, and artwork. Most bloggers will choose just text here, but if you are adding your own photographs or artwork to the blog posts, then select those as well.
Be careful here. If there are multiple authors who have contributed to your blog, then you will need to indicate that in the application.
Step 6: Get the claimant(s) right.
Note what the office states here:
The author is the original copyright claimant. The claimant may also be a person or organization to whom copyright has been transferred.
Let’s say that you had someone write a guest blog post on your site. Assuming the proper contract is in place, the copyright should have been transferred to you as the owner of the blog.
If you’re both the author and the claimant, click “Add Me” and answer the next set of questions asking for personal info.
This section could get tricky. Reach out to an attorney if you have questions.
Step 7: Note any limitations.
Another section that can get complicated. But if it’s just you who has been writing the blog content, and this is your first time registering your blog, you are probably safe to leave it blank and just click continue.
Step 8: Consider providing contact information.
You are free to leave this section blank. That said, it can be helpful if you’d like to make it easier for people to reach out regarding permission or management.
Step 9: Provide correspondence information.
This part is required. The U.S. Copyright Office needs to be able to contact you. So, fill this out.
Same with the next section, which asks for the address to send the registration certificate.
Step 10: Ignore the special handling section.
This section probably won’t apply to you. But do take the time to read it carefully. If you think it might apply, reach out to an attorney for help to make sure you are filling out this section correctly.
Step 11: Certify, review, and submit!
The next window will prompt you to certify the application.
After that, you’ll see a review window that shows you all of the details you’ve provided. Look over it to make sure everything is accurate. Again, if you’re confused or concerned at this point, reach out to an attorney to confirm that the application has been completed accurately.
Then click “Add to Cart,” and then “Checkout.”
At this point, you can select how you want to pay for the application.
Note: the filing fee should be for just $55!
Step 12: Submit the blog content to the copyright office.
Warning: this part is not fun. Especially if you’ve been blogging for a while.
At this point, you need to actually send your blog content to the copyright office. It’s time to save PDF versions of every. single. blog. post. Yep, that’s right! Once you’ve gone through all of that, save all those PDFs into one folder.
This can be done in 2 ways:
- Uploading it electronically. To do this, you’ll have to convert that folder with all the PDF blog posts into a zip drive. Beware, the office doesn’t let you upload a zip file greater than 500 MB in size.
- Submit a hard copy in the mail. Now, you could print off all those PDFs and mail in a bunch of pages. What I recommend instead is to just save that folder into a USB thumb drive and mail that in.
Step 13: Rinse and repeat.
Congrats, you know have submitted your blog content to the copyright office! If you receive a registration certificate in the mail, then that means you know have that blog content registered with the copyright office!
That application — and that registration — only covers the blog posts that you mentioned in the application and sent in. What about new content you add to the blog?
For this reason, I would highly recommend that you get into the habit of submitting copyright applications for your blog on a regular basis. The frequency depends on how often you blog. Generally speaking, bloggers should re-register to protect new content once every year or so.