Preregistration Information

IMPORTANT: Preregistration is not registration. Before you submit an application for preregistration, make sure you want to preregister your work rather than register it.

  • For the vast majority of works, preregistration is not useful.
  • Preregistration is not a substitute for registration. If you do preregister your work, you are required to register it when it is published.
  • You may register an unpublished work for online, without preregistering it. The nonrefundable filing fee for preregistration is $140. Use Form PRE to preregister your work (available on the website)

You may benefit by preregistering your work if:


I. General Information

Pursuant to the provisions of the Artists' Rights and Theft Prevention Act of 2005, the Register of Copyrights, after determining the types of works that have a history of infringement prior to commercial distribution, permits preregistration of such types of unpublished works. Preregistration is not a substitute for registration Its purpose is to allow an infringement action to be brought before the authorized commercial distribution of a work and full registration thereof, and to make it possible, upon full registration, for the copyright owner to receive statutory damages and attorneys' fees in an infringement action.


To preserve the legal benefits of preregistration, a person who has preregistered a work is required to register such work within one month after the copyright owner becomes aware of infringement and no later than three months after first publication. If full registration is not made within the prescribed time period, a court must dismiss an action for copyright infringement that occurred before or within the first two months after first publication. See U.S.C. 17 408(f), 411 and 412, as amended; also 37 C.F.R. 202.16, as added.


A work submitted for preregistration must meet three conditions:

  • 1. the work must be unpublished;
  • 2. the work must be in the process of being prepared for commercial distribution in either physical or digital format, e.g., film copies, CDs, computer programs to be sold online
  • 3. the work must be a type of work determined by the Register to have had a history of infringement prior to authorized commercial distribution. The works determined to be eligible under this requirement are:
    • motion pictures
    • sound recordings
    • musical compositions
    • literary works being prepared for publication in book form
    • computer programs (including videogames)
    • advertising or marketing photographs

    See part II below for detailed information on the types of works eligible for preregistration.

Two elements are required for preregistration submission:

  • application, and
  • nonrefundable $140 filing fee.

Persons wishing to preregister a copyright must apply online; no paper application form is available. The nonrefundable filing fee is $140.00. NOTE: The filing fee will not be refunded whether or not the preregistration is ultimately made. Only an application and fee are required; a copy or phonorecord of the work itself, or any finished part thereof, should not be submitted. Instead, the applicant must give as full a description of the work as possible in the online application.

A work may be preregistered only if creation of the work and fixation in some tangible medium have already begun. The copyright law, 17 U.S.C. 102(b), states that ideas and concepts are not subject to copyright protection and, therefore, they cannot be preregistered or registered. The work to be preregistered must be one that falls within the subject matter enumerated in section 102(a) of the copyright law.


Preregistration is a streamlined process available only online. Preregistration requires sufficient information to reasonably identify the work for which preregistration is sought, but no deposit materials are required, and the online application form will not be examined except to ascertain that all the necessary information has been provided by the applicant.


Preregistration is not a substitute for registration. It is simply a means of preserving the ability to satisfy the requirements of sections 411[a] and 412 of the Copyright Act by advising the Copyright Office prior to the publication of a work that the work is being prepared for commercial distribution, and then following through with a registration shortly after publication or infringement of the work.


The fact that a work has been preregistered does not mean that the Copyright Office necessarily will register the work when an application for registration is submitted. The Office will also not compare the information provided in the preregistration submission with that provided in the follow-up registration, e.g., names of authors may be added and names of claimants may change between the time of preregistration and the time of a full, follow-up registration.


II. Types of Works Eligible for Preregistration

Definition from the copyright law, 17 U.S.C. 101:

An audiovisual work consisting of a series of related images which, when shown in succession, impart an impression of motion, together with accompanying sounds, if any.


From Compendium of Copyright Office Practices, sec. 480.03:

A motion picture may embody the contributions of many persons whose efforts are brought together to make a unified cinematographic work of authorship.


Eligibility: To be eligible for preregistration, it is required that:

  • 1. creation and fixation of the work in a motion picture format must have already commenced, i.e., filming must have begun
  • 2. the claimant in the work can verify that he has a reasonable expectation that the work will be commercially distributed.

Definition from the copyright law, 17 U.S.C. 101:

A work resulting from the fixation of a series of musical or other sounds, but not including the sounds accompanying a motion picture or other audiovisual work.


From Compendium of Copyright Office Practices, sec. 495.01:

Sound recording authorship may be contributed by the performer or by the record producer and many times is contributed by both.


Eligibility: All sound recordings, including those having musical compositions as well as other types of underlying works, e.g., spoken poems, are eligible for preregistration. In addition, it is required that:

  • 1. at least some of the sounds must already have been fixed in a sound recording medium
  • 2. the claimant in the work can verify that he has a reasonable expectation that the work will be commercially distributed

Definition From Compendium of Copyright Office Practices, sections 401 - 403.01:

Original music, including any accompanying lyrics; also, original arrangements or other derivative versions of earlier musical compositions to which new copyrightable authorship has been added. Music is generally defined as a succession of pitches or rhythms, or both, usually in some definite pattern. Musical works are registrable without regard to aesthetic standards.


Eligibility: To be eligible for preregistration, it is required that:

  • 1. creation of the musical work and fixation in some tangible medium, such as notated copies or audio recordings, must have commenced
  • 2. a performance of the completed musical work will be reproduced in a sound recording or in a sound track of a motion picture which is intended for distribution, either in hard-copy formats or online
  • 3. the claimant in the work can verify that he has a reasonable expectation the work will be commercially distributed

Definition from the copyright law, 17 U.S.C. 101:

Literary works are works, other than audiovisual works, expressed in words, numbers, or other verbal or numerical symbols or indicia.


From Compendium of Copyright Office Practices, section 303:

A nondramatic literary work is one that explains, describes, or narrates a particular idea, theme or subject.


Eligibility: To be eligible for preregistration, it is required that:

  • 1. creation and fixation of the literary work must have already commenced
  • 2. the claimant in the work can verify that he has a reasonable expectation that the work will be commercially distributed in the form of a book

Definition from the copyright law, 17 U.S.C. 101:

A computer program is a set of statements or instructions to be used directly or indirectly in a computer in order to bring about a certain result.


From Compendium of Copyright Office Practices, section 321.03:

The Copyright Office considers source and object code as two representations of the same computer program.


Eligibility: To be eligible for preregistration, it is required that:

  • 1. creation and fixation of the computer program – i.e., the code – must have already commenced
  • 2. the claimant in the work can verify that he has a reasonable expectation that the work will be commercially distributed

Definition from the copyright law, 17 U.S.C. 101:

includes photographs in its definition of “pictorial, graphic and sculptural works.”


From Compendium of Copyright Office Practices, section 508.01:

Original photographic composition capable of supporting [normal] registration may include such elements as time and light exposure, camera angle or perspective achieved, deployment of light and shadow from natural or artificial light sources, and the arrangement or disposition of persons, scenery, or other subjects depicted in the photograph.


Eligibility: To be eligible for preregistration, it is required that:

  • 1. creation and fixation of the advertising or marketing photograph for a product or service must have already commenced, although further editing or modifications may not yet have occurred
  • 2. the claimant can verify that he has a reasonable expectation that the photograph will be commercially distributed

NOTE: A claimant may also preregister multiple photographs taken for use in a particular advertising and marketing project for a particular product or service, if at least some of the photographs have been created and fixed and if the claimant can verify that he has a reasonable expectation that at least one of the photographs will be commercially distributed.


III. How to Complete the Preregistration Application

The preregistration application is only available online. We recommend that you read the detailed information below, including the screen-by-screen instructions, before beginning your online application. Much of this information is also provided on the individual application screens. To begin the preregistration process, go to the Preregister Your Work page and click on the Start the Preregistration Process button at the bottom of the page.


Select at least one type of work. More than one type may be selected if all works are owned by the same claimant AND both works will be published at the same time as a single unit AND you want to preregister both.


Examples:

  • The same person or company owns musical compositions and the sound recording of them, and both will be published for the first time on a compact disk (CD): Check the boxes labeled "Sound Recording" and "Musical Composition."
  • The same company owns a sound recording remixed from a previously published recording, and a new music video. The derivative sound recording and music video will be published for the first time as a set consisting of a DVD and a SACD (super audio compact disk): Check the boxes labeled "Sound Recording" and "Motion Picture."
  • The same company owns a new product consisting of a videogame that is being published for the first time in packaging that also contains the first publication of a large print of an advertising photograph associated with the videogame: Check the boxes labeled “Computer Program” and “Advertising and Marketing Photograph.”

Give the title by which the work is currently identified. This may be a working title, which will not necessarily be the title of the work when it is distributed to the public.


If the Type of Work is a sound recording or musical work and the work being preregistered is an album, give only the album title here. Enter individual track titles, if known, on the next screen.

If the work being preregistered is an audio recording of an album and you know the titles or working titles of individual tracks, you are encouraged to give those titles to add to the completeness of the preregistration record.


Give the full name of the author or authors. For preregistration, the author is the person (or company) who it is anticipated will be identified on the basic application for the completed work as the author under the copyright law, when the follow-up registration is made.


For a pseudonymous work, you may give either the pseudonym or the legal name of the author.

The author is either the individual who is the actual creator of the work, or an employer for whom the work is being prepared as a "work made for hire." The employer for a "work made for hire" is the author under the copyright law and should be named as such on the application.

Give the full, legal name of the claimant, that is, the person (or company) who it is anticipated will be identified on the application as the owner of copyright in the completed work when the follow-up registration is made. The claimant is either the author or the person or organization that has obtained ownership of all rights under the copyright by means of a legal transfer from the author. It is not necessary that the author and claimant be identical if someone other than the author is, or will be, the copyright owner.


1. Date on which creation commenced


This should be the date or the approximate date on which actual creation of the work and fixation in some tangible medium began:


  • For a motion picture: the date filming began.
  • For a sound recording: the date recording sessions began.
  • For a musical composition: the date the music and/or lyrics were initially written or recorded.
  • For a literary work in book form: the date the actual writing of the book began.
  • For a computer program, that may include a videogame: the date the writing of the program began; or, the date the images of the visual aspect of the videogame began to be fixed.
  • For an advertising or marketing photograph: the date the photograph, or the first photograph within a unit to be published, was taken

Both the month and year must be given; the day date is optional. If you do not know the exact date, give your closest approximation and check the “Approximate” box.


2. Date of anticipated completion


This should be the date or approximate date on which you anticipate finishing the work in the form intended for commercial distribution. If the work has already been substantially completed except for final editing, give the anticipated date of final editing. Both the month and year must be given; the day date is optional. If you do not know the exact date, give your closest approximation and check the “Approximate” box. For works in a series being prepared for distribution across a range of dates, each individual work must be preregistered separately, according to the date of anticipated distribution of each episode, volume, installment, etc.


3. Date of anticipated commencement of commercial distribution


This should be the date or the approximate date you believe that copies or phonorecords of the work, in its complete and finished form, will be distributed to the public.


The year date must be given; the day date and month are optional. If you are not sure of the exact date, give your closest approximation and check the “Approximate” box.

Because preregistration is not a form of registration but is simply an indication of an intent to register a work once the work has been completed and/or published, there is no deposit requirement. However, to identify the particular work for which preregistration is sought, a description of the work is required. This description should be as detailed and specific as possible, so that a court in a copyright infringement action can be satisfied that the allegedly infringed work is in fact the work described in the application. The description cannot exceed 2,000 characters (approximately 330 words).


  • For a motion picture: Describe the work in terms of the subject matter it treats, and/or give a plot summary or outline. Include the director and major actors, as well as the principal location of filming, if known, and give any other details that would assist in identifying the particular motion picture.
  • For a sound recording: Describe the work in terms of the subject matter of the underlying work recorded and include the genre, for example, hip hop, hard rock, classical. Identify the performers and the principal recording location, if known, as well as the record label, if known; give any other characteristics of the recording that may help in identifying the particular recording.
  • For a musical composition performed in a sound recording or in a movie soundtrack: Describe the subject matter of the lyrics, if any, and identify the genre of the work, for example, hip hop, hard rock, classical. Because musical works are now commercially exploited primarily in the form of prerecorded music or in motion pictures, give the name of the performers and principal recording location, if known, as well as the record label or motion picture, if known. Provide any other details or characteristics that would assist in identifying the particular musical composition(s).
  • For a literary work in book form: Identify the genre of the book, e.g., biography, novel, history. Describe the work in terms of the subject matter that it treats, for example, the biography of a public figure and the general approach to the biographic subject; a novel in a series of novels having a continuation of theme, plot, and characters. Identify any salient characteristics of the book, e.g., whether it is a later edition or revision of a previous work; and give any other detail which may assist in identifying the literary work in book form. (Please note: An entire series of novels or other works cannot be preregistered altogether with a single application and fee unless the entire series will be distributed as a single unit on the same day.)
  • For a computer program, that may include a videogame: Describe the nature, purpose, and function of the computer program, including information such as its approximate length (if known), any particular organization or structure in which the program has been created; any information concerning the computer language in which it is written; the form in which it is expected to be published, e.g., as an online-only product; the version, if known, which is expected to be the published version. If the work is a videogame, also describe the subject matter of the videogame and the overall object, goal or purpose of the game, its characters, if any, and the general setting and surrounding found in the game.
  • For an advertising or marketing photograph: Describe the subject matter depicted in the photograph(s). This would include information such as the particular product / event / public figure / other item or occurrence that the photograph is meant to advertise or market. To the extent possible, give additional details that will assist in identifying the particular photographs, such as the party for whom such advertising photographs are taken; the approximate time periods during which the photographs are taken; the approximate number of photos that may be included in the grouping; the physical setting or surrounding depicted in the photographs. Also explain the general presentation, e.g., lighting, background scenery, positioning of elements– of the subject matter as it is seen in the photograph(s). Provide any locations and events, if applicable, associated with the photographs.

You must enter the email address to which the notification of preregistration should be sent. Note: This notification, which will include the Preregistration Number and date, is the only notice you will receive that preregistration has been made. The Copyright Office does not issue a paper certificate of preregistration.


You must enter the name of the individual certifying the application and click the “I agree” box after the certification statement.

You should review the entire submission on this screen. If you need to revise any information, return to the appropriate screen to make the revision. If the entire submission is correct, click the “Add to Cart” button at the top of the screen.


Paying the nonrefundable filing fee


After all submissions have been added to the cart, you may pay the total fee in one of two ways:

  • 1. If you have a deposit account with the Copyright Office, you may charge the fee to that account.
  • 2. You may pay the fee by credit card, debit card, or electronic funds transfer. Our online system uses Pay.gov, a U.S. Treasury site. You will be automatically directed to that site when you make one of these payment choices. The Copyright Office does not receive or hold any credit card or bank account information submitted to Pay.gov. Upon completion of your payment, you will be returned to eCO, the electronic Copyright Office system.

IV. Statutory Provisions and Definitions

In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work. 17 U.S.C. Sec. 102 (b).


A “pseudonymous work” is a work on the copies or phonorecords of which the author is identified under a fictitious name. 17 U.S.C. Sec. 101.


A work is unpublished at a given point in time if it does not meet the definition of “publication.” "Publication" is the distribution of copies or phonorecords of a work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending. The offering to distribute copies or phonorecords to a group of persons for purposes of further distribution, public performance, or public display, constitutes publication. A public performance or display of a work does not of itself constitute publication. 17 U.S.C. Sec. 101

A "work made for hire" is

  • 1. a work prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment; or
  • 2. a work specially ordered or commissioned for use as a contribution to a collective work, as a part of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, as a translation, as a supplementary work, as a compilation, as an instructional text, as a test, as answer material for a test, or as an atlas, if the parties expressly agree in a written instrument signed by them that the work shall be considered a work made for hire. 17 U.S.C. Sec. 101