December 13, 2011

The Lowdown on Copyrighting Your Book

Total Read Time: 3 minutes

["Gavel" by creationc]

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and should not be considered professional legal advice.)

Chances are if you’ve written a book, you’ve thought about whether you needed to copyright it. Technically, as soon as your book comes into existence in any tangible form, it’s already copyrighted, but if you ever get in a situation where you need to defend your rights in a court of law, you’ll need an official copyright. If you’re going with a traditional publisher, they should handle your copyright registration for you, but if you plan to self-publish, you’re on your own.

But what about Poor Man’s Copyright?

Mailing a copy of your manuscript to yourself and using the postmark to try to prove your rights to the work (AKA: Poor Man’s Copyright), is not admissible in court. Save the money you would have spent on postage and invest it in an official copyright instead.

Do I really need to spend money copyrighting my work?

That’s totally up to you. I like to think of it as an insurance policy. Spend some money up front to possibly cover your butt later on. For a one-time cost, your book will be protected for the rest of your life, plus another 50 years after you die.

Although you may think you’ll never need it, keep in mind it’s become even easier for people to steal content and claim it as their own now that books and the self-publishing process have gone digital. Just a few months ago, the story of a self-published author on Amazon having a problem with someone else selling her book as their own (also via Amazon) was all over Twitter. In order to straighten everything out with Amazon and to pursue legal action, the author needed to provide her official copyright documentation for the book.

What does copyright protect?

An official copyright protects your rights to the content of your book. That’s pretty much it. It doesn’t prevent people from copying the title, your ideas, names you’ve created, etc. When it comes to protecting titles and names, you’re looking at registering a trademark (which most writers—indie and otherwise—usually don’t bother with).

Owning an official copyright won’t automatically protect your book either. If you do find out someone is plagiarizing your work, it’s still up to you to take legal action against them (using your handy copyright to win).

Can I register a copyright for my book before it’s published?

Yes, but if you are in the US, it will cost you more. The decision whether to copyright before or after publication is up to you. If it’s worth the extra piece of mind of being protected before your book even comes out, register early and pay the extra money.

How can I register?

Registering is easy. You can do it online in both Canada and the US. You will receive your official copyright documentation in the mail a few weeks later.

In the US: Visit the US Copyright Office

How much does it cost?

Here are the current fees for registering your copyright online:

In Canada: $50 per book registered (Before or after publication)

In the US: $35 per book registered after publication
                  $115 per book pre-registered before publication    

Have you registered a copyright for your book? Why or why not?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comment Rules:
Feedback is awesome. Trolling/flaming is not. If you are rude, your post will be deleted.

Please do not put your website in the comment text, as this can come across as spam.

Thanks for adding to the conversation! Have fun :)