Format rules your permission requests, not your ownership protection.
You own your content in any tangible form.
Finished your work? You may want to federally register it in order to give yourself the benefit of being able to sue in federal court. You may think that since your work is in several formats you must register all of them separately in order to protect each against infringement. You own the content you created, no matter what format you choose to use to deliver it to your public. To register in various formats does not really offer added protection. If the content in your print book is the same as the content in your e-book, copyright law provides protection for both of these formats, and registration allows you to move forward in a federal court to protect any “tangible” form in which this content is delivered.
Format rules permission requests.
This flexibility in protection regardless of format delivery is not to be confused, however, with protection offered to copyright owners regarding the use by others of their works in various formats. As a copyright owner, one has the right to decide who can publish their work and how others can deliver their work. Copyright owners have the right to grant or deny use of their work in differing formats. For example, as a permissions specialist firm, we have been denied the right by persons well known and persons not so well known to publish their content in an e-book while being granted the right to publish the same content in print form. Under US copyright law, we must honor their decisions as to what format our use of their work will take. We may choose in such a case to remove the work in question from our work or have two different versions of our work, one with it and one without it.
If you are seeking permission to publish the copyrighted content belonging to others, keep in mind that you likely must secure permission for each format you publish it in.
In understanding the role of US copyright law, remember that your work is protected without regard to format. Remember also that to protect yourself against infringing others’ copyrighted works, you will most likely need to request and obtain permission to publish their content in each of the various formats you plan to use.