How to Copyright a Poem

Ann Johnson

In the United States, under current copyright laws, the moment a poet creates a poem, and that work is "fixed in a copy or photorecord," the work falls under copyright protection. If the author needs to bring a lawsuit against someone who has plagiarized the work, the poet must first file a copyright registration.

Copyright a Poem

While a registration isn't necessary to assert you have rights, it is necessary prior to bringing legal action. Securing a registration before plagiarism occurs not only makes it easier to prove ownership, it can determine what type of damages may be awarded.

  1. Request a copyright application by calling the U.S. Copyright Office, (202) 707-3000, or write to U.S. Copyright Office, 101 Independence Ave. S.E. Washington, D.C. 20559-6000. The forms can also be obtained at its website.

  2. Make a photocopy of the poem you wish to copyright.

  3. Prepare a check for a $45 payment.

  4. Complete the copyright application.

  5. Mail the application, a copy of your poem and the payment, to the return address specified in the copyright registration application form.

  6. Tip

    Registration affords the owner of the copyright the right to record with the U.S. Customs Service for importation protection. You also can file for a registration online by visiting the U.S. Copyright Office's website. Credit cards are accepted, fees are slightly less, and you must upload a copy of your work to the site.