Copyright is a form of protection granted by law for "original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression," both published and unpublished (www.copyright.gov/help/faq). While you do not have to register your work with the U.S. Copyright Office, you will have to do so if you wish to file a lawsuit against another party for infringement.
United States Code, Section 102: Subject matter of copyright: in general
(a) – Copyright protection subsists, in accordance with this title, in original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device. Works of authorship include the following categories:
1. Literary works;
2. Musical works, including any accompanying words;
3. Dramatic works, including any accompanying music;
4. Pantomimes and choreographic works;
5. Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works;
6. Motion pictures and other audiovisual works;
7. Sound recordings; and
8. Architectural works.
(b)– 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.
Although works may be copyrighted without being registered with the Copyright Office, it is important to register a copyright on your works should you ever find your works being infringed. Copyright notice must contain the following three elements:
1 - © (the letter C with a circle around it) OR the word “Copyright”
2 – the year of the first publication of the work (not required for pictorial, graphic or sculptural works even if text is included with the art)
3 – the copyright owner’s name or recognized abbreviation of it
This program is made available by the rights licensing experts at Copyright Clearance Center.