When is your work copyrighted? Right away.
Here’s what the United States Copyright Offices says:
Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.
Is it necessary to register with the U.S. Copyright Office to receive copyright protection in the United States?
No. In general, registration is voluntary. Copyright exists from the moment the work is created. You will have to register, however, if you wish to bring a lawsuit for infringement of a U.S. work.
So why should a copyright be registered at all if copyright exists when the work is created?
Registration is recommended for a number of reasons. Many choose to register their works because they wish to have the facts of their copyright on the public record and have a certificate of registration. Registered works may be eligible for statutory damages and attorney’s fees in successful litigation. Finally, if registration occurs within five years of publication, it is considered prima facie evidence in a court of law.
A registered copyright gives an author maximum protection if there is ever a need to bring a case of copyright infringement. To learn more, you can view a copy of Circular 1 – Copyright Basics from the U.S. Copyright Office website. Also, consult an attorney if you want further guidance.
Just know that under U.S. law, your work is copyrighted the moment you create it.