How to Register a Copyright in California


Copyright is a powerful tool for protecting your work, but it can be difficult to understand and apply. Luckily, it requires a straight-forward  process to register a copyright in California that doesn’t require any special technical knowledge or legal experience. Here’s how:

Register a Copyright in California

The California Secretary of State is a state agency that oversees the registration of copyrights in California. You can register with them, but the process is very different from what you’ll experience when registering with the US Copyright Office.

The Copyright Office has been part of the Library of Congress since 1897 and serves as an administrative office for all copyright matters. It’s an important resource to consult if you have questions about copyright law or your rights regarding it.

Download the Registration Form

The first step is to download a form from the Secretary of State website. You’ll need to choose the appropriate form based on whether you’re registering copyright for an individual or a business. Forms are available in English, as well as languages like Spanish and Chinese. The forms are free, but if you live in California, there will be an additional $105 fee (or $125 for businesses).

Fill Out the Form

The following information will help you fill out and file the form:

  • Fill in the required information on all lines of the form.
  • If you don’t know a piece of information, skip it and write “unknown.” You’ll have to tell us what it is when we receive your application, but at least we’ll know there’s something missing from your document.
  • If you are unsure whether or not an organization is a legal entity, contact our office (either through email or by phone). We can help determine if they’re eligible for copyright protection.

To Register a Copyright You Must Provide Correct Info

Be sure that all information on the application is correct and complete. If you are unsure about any portion of your application, you can ask a lawyer or another expert to help. You can also check the information on the Secretary of State website.

Send Your Application

  • Mail your application to the Secretary of State. The address will be on the form.
  • You can also submit it by fax or email if you prefer, but I recommend mailing in your application for both convenience and tracking purposes.

Pay the Fee

You can pay the Copyright Office fee using a credit card or check. You can also pay by phone, mail, and in person at local offices located throughout California. If you have a banking problem that prevents you from paying online, you may be able to arrange for an alternative method of payment with an examiner of your choice (it is best to call ahead). The Copyright Office does not accept cash or money orders as payment for registration fees or deposits; however, it does accept checks drawn on U.S. banks if they are cleared through a U.S bank before deposited into one of its accounts (see below for details).

Verify Ownership and Obtain your Rights

Registering your copyright in California gives you better verification of ownership and extended rights in case of infringement.

  • Verification of ownership: When you register a written work with the California Secretary of State, it includes an official certificate that can be used as proof that you are the owner of this piece. This is especially important if other people want to use your work without permission, as they must have your permission or a license from you before they can legally do so.
  • Extended rights: By registering your work, not only will it give you proof that it’s yours but also it opens up avenues for legal action against anyone who infringes upon those rights by using any part(s) or aspects of something else without permission.


Now that you know how to register your copyright in California, it’s time to get started.

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