Copyright is protection for “original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression.” If you make something creative on your own, and it is something tangible or on something tangible, the work is eligible for copyright protection. The protection exists from the moment the work is created; not from the time you register the work or put a copyright notice on it.
I previously wrote about the effects of merely placing the copyright symbol on your work. Registering your work with the federal government gives additional protection.
By registering your copyright with the federal government, you add several features of protection to your work. First, you place the public on notice of your copyright. Second, if you register the copyright within 5 years of publishing the work, your copyright registration becomes evidence in court that your copyright is valid. Third, you can bring an action in federal court for infringement of your copyright. Fourth, and perhaps most attractive, you can be awarded statutory damages and attorney’s fees if you are successful in a lawsuit.