Unlike other forms of intellectual property, copyright protection is extended automatically upon the creation of the work. There is no need to register the work to gain protection. You can, of course, voluntarily register the work at the state or federal level as these additional steps can help in legal proceedings or the assignment or transfer of rights down the road.
Titles, short phrases, slogans, or the listing of product ingredients are not copyrightable because they don’t contain enough elements of authorship to demonstrate any form of original expression. That said, brand names, slogans and phrases used in connection with a product or service that has been protected under trademark law may be protected within the trademark portion of intellectual property law.
Copyright law doesn’t extend to what is known as “useful articles,” either. These would be things like lamps, clothing, sinks or computer monitors as they are considered utilitarian. For example, you can copyright the print or fabric a piece of clothing is made from, but not the item of clothing itself. The design can’t be copyrighted because it is only a unique cut of the copyrightable fabric.
Any work created after Jan. 1, 1978 is protected under copyright law for the creator’s life plus an additional 70 years after their death. If it is a joint work with two or more people, the protection is extended to 70 years after the death of the last surviving creator. For works made for hire, anonymous and pseudonym works, the duration is 95 years from publication or 120 years from its creation, whichever period is shorter.