What is a Copyright?
A Copyright grants an owner the right to reproduce or transfer a drawing, font , photograph, or other images to other media. It also protects music, film, written works, intellectual property (e.g. Mickey Mouse), Online content and images.
A Copyright does not however protect ideas, styles or techniques. This is why a "family style" recipe is kept in a family, because it is extremely difficult to prove that it was stolen.
How is a Copyright awarded?
A Copyright is awarded immediately, as soon as a work is published. (This does not need to be a public publishing, as long as an owner can prove that is was published.) There is nothing else needed to receive a Copyright.
Once an owner has a Copyright, they can assign certain rights to others. Such as copying a specific work for an ad. Usually this confines the use to specific media, and for specific projects.
Copyright notice example: ©DanPhelan 2012
A Copyright notice displays to others that an owner actually owns a work.
Sources personal experience and http://www.copyright.gov