As we celebrate the founding of the United States this Friday, it’s salutary to remember that the US’s record is mixed, and mixed-up. These Frequently Asked Questions about copyrighting Elvis sightings and star namings come straight from the US government’s Copyright Office.
How do I protect my sighting of Elvis?
Copyright law does not protect sightings. However, copyright law will protect your photo (or other depiction) of your sighting of Elvis. File your claim to copyright online by means of the electronic Copyright Office (eCO). Pay the fee online and attach a copy of your photo. For more information on registering a copyright, see SL-35. No one can lawfully use your photo of your sighting, although someone else may file his own photo of his sighting. Copyright law protects the original photograph, not the subject of the photograph.
Can I get a star named after me and claim copyright to it?
No. There is a lot of misunderstanding about this. Names are not protected by copyright. Publishers of works such as a star registry may register a claim to copyright in the text of the volume [or book] containing the names the registry has assigned to stars, and perhaps the compilation of data; but such a registration would not extend protection to any of the individual star names appearing therein. Copyright registration of such a volume of star names does not confer any official or governmental status on any of the star names included in the volume. For further information on copyright protection and names, see Circular 34, Copyright Protection Not Available for Names, Titles, or Short Phrases