Under current US law, you do not have to register your work to receive copyright protection. However, copyright registration comes with certain legal benefits. If the work is registered within three months of its publication date or before a particular infringement occurs, the copyright holder can recover statutory damages (monetary awards that need not be connected to actual harm suffered by the copyright holder) and attorney’s fees if she is successful in an infringement suit. Also, registration is required before the author can bring a lawsuit about the use of her work. However, despite these benefits, many works are never registered because registration takes time and money.
Copyright registration is not difficult. For instructions and forms, visit the US Copyright Office website. The US Copyright Office has a toll-free helpline at 1-877-476-0778. You may register a work at any time while it is still in copyright.
Registration costs can vary depending on the type of work and whether or not you are the sole author. The U.S. Copyright Office's Circular 4 and the U.S. Copyright Office's Fees page have the most up-to-date information about registration fees.
When authors submit master's theses and dissertations to ProQuest, they will have the option of having ProQuest register their copyright for them. This is not a requirement. There is a fee for this service.