What do I own?
Copyright protection is automatic for any "original work of authorship" created by you and "fixed in any tangible medium of expression." As the author of a copyrighted work, you are generally the copyright owner. But in many circumstances, an employer is considered to be the author.
In scholarly publishing agreements, it is common for authors to assign their copyrights to publishers. In such cases, the publishers become the copyright owners.
The University of California has policies that define the copyright ownership status of works produced within the university. As an employer, the University retains the copyright of "works made for hire" by employees. One exception is that faculty traditionally own copyright to the scholarly works that they produce. Collaborative creation falls under the rules for joint authorship and collective works.
At UC, students generally own the copyrights to their creative works, including theses and dissertations. Under the UC Copyright Policy, copyright in works created by student employees in the course and scope of their employment with UC is owned by the university.
Protecting your copyright
Since copyright protection is automatic at creation, you do not need to register your work with the U.S. Copyright Office. However, if you wish to file a lawsuit for copyright infringement, you must register your work. To register a work, submit a completed application form, filing fee, and copies of the work to the U.S. Copyright Office. For information on registration procedures, see Circular 1, Registration Procedures (pdf).