Registering Copyright Work

Fact sheet P-04

Issued: April 2003
Last amended: 03rd February 2023
Fact sheet P-04: Registering copyright

This fact sheet explains the process of copyright registration and the benefits of registering your work.

  1. Why register?

    Although copyright is an automatic right of the author, if an unscrupulous third party infringes your work, proving your claim may be a difficult matter.

    In the past, a popular but misguided solution has been to post a copy of the work to yourself, but as it is an easy task to open and replace the contents or simply seal the envelope later, this method does not provide strong evidence in the event of a dispute.

    Without more substantial evidence, copyright disputes can boil down to a case of their word against yours, and if the other party has greater financial resources, reputation and lawyers it may be very difficult to get a ruling in your favour.

    This is why we feel the best solution is to have the work registered, so that in the event of a dispute you have the best, independently verifiable, evidence of the date and content of your work.

  2. About Copyright Witness

    One of the key considerations in setting up the service was to achieve a better level of copyright protection at a price that everyone can afford.

    Copyright Witness is essentially an independent witnessing service and an archive of original works, which offers impartial supporting evidence of ownership. Nothing can ever provide a 100% guarantee, but if you register your copyright and follow our guidelines we feel you will have done as much as possible to protect your work.

  3. What types of work can be registered?

    Just about anything which is an original work, here are some examples:

    • Music, lyrics and sound recordings
    • Design work
    • Web sites
    • Advertisements, plans, designs and patterns
    • Labels, maps and charts
    • Computer programs
    • Films and scripts
    • Books, manuscripts and synopsis
    • Artwork and photography
    • Commercial documents, logos, letterheads
    • Periodicals, catalogues and other documents
    • Games (rules and descriptions)
    • Descriptions of ideas prior to patent
  4. What happens when your work is registered?
    • You will be allocated a personal account number, and information about the work is stored in our database.
    • Your work will be stored in our secure archives and allocated a registration number that identifies it.
    • Encrypted back ups are stored in multiple, geographically separated locations. This precaution ensures protection against data corruption, fire, and other risks.
    • You will be sent a certificate as confirmation of registration.
      • For postal submissions a paper certificate is posted back.
      • For online submissions a PDF certificate will be sent to you by email.
      • Additional paper certificates may also be ordered on the registration form.
    • The archive is maintained by our dedicated personnel who take every care to ensure that copies of your work are kept safe and secure for the period of registration. You will also be notified before the registration expires and offered the option to extend the registration period if required.
    • Your details, your work and all data about it are treated as confidential.
    • An entry in our archive is evidence of copyright ownership from the date of registration, and will assist you in the event of a dispute.
  5. How to register your work
    • Online  

      The fastest way to register is via our online registration service. This provides immediate protection for your work.

    • Postal applications

      We also accept postal applications. To register complete the registration application form F-01, and send the following:

      • A copy of the work to be registered.
      • A completed application.
      • The registration fee.
      • Accepted media formats for postal applications

        Blu-ray (BD) disc
        USB Flash drive /USB SSD
        Paper - incuding photographs, transparencies and prints.

        Please see the postal registration format information page for conditions and guidance on all media types accepted for registration.

      • Ensure that you only include a copy of the work and not the original or master.

  6. When to register

    It is important to remember that a registration is evidence of your work from the registration date. It is therefore best to register sooner rather than later so you establish the evidence before your work has a chance to be infringed.

  7. Charges and registration limits
    • Online
      • Online registration fees

        The current charges for online registration are £51.00 for 5 years or £85.00 for 10 years per work.

      • Online registration limits

        Submissions up to 20GB* in size can be made using the on-line registration system (*individual file limit is 4GB, but multiple files can be included in a single submission up to the 20GB maximum).

        If you have a large number of files, we do suggest that you use an archiving program such as WinZip, StuffIt or Tar, to preserve your directory structure and simplify your upload.

    • Postal applications
      • Registration fees for postal applications

        The current charges for postal applications are £61.00 for 5 years or £95.00 for 10 years per work.

      • Charges for oversized items

        The standard charges include submissions of CD, DVD or BD discs, or USB Flash drive/USB SSD containing up to 10GB (10240MB) of data, or paper documents, photos or fabric samples up to 20 pages A4/Letter/Foolscap size.

        • Paper documents over 20 pages:
          A £5 GBP processing fee will apply for each 100 pages (or part thereof) over 20 pages.
          i.e. for 21-120 pages add £5, for 121-220 pages add £10, for 221-320 pages add £15, etc.

        • Documents over A4/Letter size:
          A £5 GBP processing fee is added to cover the additional processing requirements of larger formats.

        • Data over 10GB on CD/DVD/Blu-ray disc/USB drive/USB SSD:
          Where the total electronic data in a submission exceeds 10GB, a £10 GBP processing fee will apply for each 10GB (or part thereof) over 10GB.
          i.e. for 10-20GB add £10, for 20-30GB add £20, etc.

          The preferred formats for postal submissions are CD, DVD & USB drive.

  8. For maximum protection, ensure that
    • Your work displays a copyright notice. e.g. "Copyright © 2019 Joe Smith."
    • Once registered, you should include a statement that your work is registered with Copyright Witness to deter infringement.
    • In the case of jointly authored works, you should have an agreement, so that if a member of your collective leaves you are all clear what will happen to the copyright of your work.
    • Any significant updates to your work are registered using the registration update facility.

      For more information about protecting your work, see our fact sheet P-02: Protecting Copyright.
  9. What if the work is infringed?

    In the event of a dispute, Copyright Witness can act as an impartial independent witness, providing evidence to authenticate your claim:

    We can verify when the work was first registered by means of a certificate of registration, (further copies can be made at your request), and at your instruction we can produce copies of the work as proof of the content of your work at the registration date, these can be sent to any address you specify, this may be your solicitor, or the judge/tribunal dealing with your case.

  10. What if the work changes after registration?

    If a work changes after registration and you wish the new content to also be protected it is possible to submit an updated version of the work as a registration update. This creates another dated evidence deposit that will demonstrate the evolution of your work over time. Updates are charged at a reduced rate - for more information please see the registration updates fact sheet.

  11. Extending the registration period

    A registration can be extended using our online renewal/extension facility at any point when it has less than 5 years left to run. Expired registrations can also be renewed up to 28 days after the expiry date.

    We automatically send renewal reminders via email when the expiry date is near and offer the option to extend the registration for a further 5 or 10 year period if required. If we do not have a valid email address for your we will send a reminder by post.

    The maximum registration duration at any point is 10 years, but renewal process can be repeated as often as required throughout the life of the work, up to the legal copyright duration (which is normally author’s life plus 70 years).

  12. Important notes, exceptions and allowances
    • Registering a collection of works under one title

      Where a number of items form a larger collective work, you may register all parts on one CD, online upload, etc. For example: A web site and artwork. A music album, lyrics and midi files. A single collection of poems.

      In such a case, the works will be registered with Copyright Witness as one item, with one title; this does not affect the copyright of the work in any way, but please ensure this is suitable for your needs.

      Please note: As copyright exists under the name of the author or company/commissioner of the work, work by different authors, organisations or collaborations need be registered separately.

    • Allowance for supporting works (postal applications)

      Clearly work size can vary enormously, and for that reason, extra charges are waived for clients who submit 2 CD’s as a double album, or include a second CD containing information proving work development,e.g. rough drafts, content notes, supplementary files, etc. Both the discs however must pertain to the same work.

    • Electronic documents with unusual fonts or images

      If you are registering electronic documents, (i.e. Word, Excel, Publisher), ensure that any graphic files are included or embedded in the documents. Also ensure that fonts are embedded, or use standard fonts such as Arial and Times New Roman. Failure to do so may result in the document being indecipherable and affect your claim in the event of dispute.

    • Extracts, quotes etc.

      If your work includes some parts which are not your own creation, it may still be possible to register provided you either have permission to use the work, and enclose proof of written permission from the copyright owner of the parts in question, (a photocopy will suffice), or remove any parts that are not your own creation from the copy for registration.

    • Outstanding disputes

      This service is intended to protect against future infringement. It will not assist if ownership of the work is already in dispute.

  13. Privacy policy

    Copyright Witness operates a strict privacy policy regarding client information.

    • All client details, registered works or registration details are considered confidential and except where legally required, (i.e. by court order or Police investigation), will not be disclosed to any third party without prior consent.
    • Client details will never be passed onto other companies, mailing lists, etc.
    • All our personnel dealing directly with client details are required to sign a confidentiality agreement.
    • All electronic back ups of works are encrypted, to ensure they cannot be accessed by unauthorised personnel.
    • All documents and files containing client data that require disposal, (such as redundant or expired files) are disposed of in a secure manner, normally by shredding and/or incineration.