Do You Need A Copyright For Your Book?
Clearing Up The Copyright Mess
I know you’ve all seen that ubiquitous symbol—it seems to be everywhere. The one I’m talking about is the copyright symbol: ©. It’s a warning that the work is protected. The question is, Do you need a copyright for your book?
I’ve heard about mailing my manuscript to myself and leaving it unopened. Doesn’t this protect me?
From the US Copyright site, FAQ section:
I’ve heard about a “poor man’s copyright.” What is it?
The practice of sending a copy of your own work to yourself is sometimes called a “poor man’s copyright.” There is no provision in the copyright law regarding any such type of protection, and it is not a substitute for registration.
Let’s Take A Look At The Laws
Most of this is from the US Copyright website:
What does copyright protect?
Copyright, a form of intellectual property law, protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture.
How is a copyright different from a patent or a trademark?
Copyright protects original works of authorship, while a patent protects inventions or discoveries. Ideas and discoveries are not protected by the copyright law, although the way in which they are expressed may be.
When is my work protected?
Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.
So, why do you need a copyright for your book?
(This is from me.)
If you anticipate being sued for copyright infringement, I would suggest obtaining a copyright registration for protection. Other than that, I don’t see the need. Keep in mind, I’m not an attorney and this is not legal advice, nonetheless, I think it’s sound advice.
Do I have to register with your office to be protected?
No. In general, registration is voluntary. Copyright exists from the moment the work is created. You will have to register, however, if you wish to bring a lawsuit for infringement of a U.S. work.
Why should I register my work if copyright protection is automatic?
Registration is recommended for a number of reasons. Many choose to register their works because they wish to have the facts of their copyright on the public record and have a certificate of registration. Registered works may be eligible for statutory damages and attorney’s fees in successful litigation. Finally, if registration occurs within 5 years of publication, it is considered prima facie evidence in a court of law.
Is my copyright good in other countries?
The United States has copyright relations with most countries throughout the world, and as a result of these agreements, we honor each other’s citizens’ copyrights. However, the United States does not have such copyright relationships with every country. For a listing of countries and the nature of their copyright relations with the United States, see Circular 38a, International Copyright Relations of the United States.
Should I Get A Copyright?
That is up to you. You will probably never need it, or never have to resort to legal means to protect it; however, registering your work does offer advantages when it comes to legal protection. (Noted above) This is a decision you have to make, but you have time to do it. As stated above, you have 5 years to register the copyright and still receive protection.
As you can see, the chances are you will never need a copyright, so don’t let companies try to bully you into getting one, and certainly don’t pay anything more than necessary if you do decide to get one. After reading this, if you still think you want to register your work, and you don’t want to pay someone else to do it, the registration process is listed below.
How To Register My Copyright?
Registration is simple. Go to the website and follow the instructions. It’s simple and can be done by anyone.
I hope this helps.
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Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of gritty crime dramas about murder, mystery, and family. And he also writes non-fiction books including the No Mistakes Careers series as well as books about grammar and publishing. See the complete list here.
He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends.