Copyrighting Your Work

Book printingProtecting an original work has become even more important in our world of easy-come, easy-go, easy-to-copy online content.  Copyrighting your book is an important step in the publishing process and the internet makes it very easy to do; ironically.

You are not required to be the world’s next best-selling author for a copyright registration to be beneficial.  Some very famous books were rejected dozens of times by publishers before they became successful.  Whether you plan to make money on what you have written or not, registering with the U.S. Copyright Office provides many benefits.  For instance, registration produces a tangible record that can later be referenced.  Should a lawsuit be initiated later on, the original copyright serves as direct evidence of who has legitimate rights to a written work.  Although a copyright registration is not essential to be protected under copyright laws, it can take a lot of hassle out of deciding who is entitled to make money from book sales.

The Process

The road map for how to secure rights to your book along with other useful information about the process can be found at www.copyright.gov.  The process is fairly simple and inexpensive however it can take a long time to be finalized.  For a nominal fee of about 35 to 40 dollars, authors can submit their work to the U.S. copyright office for review.  You can either mail in your manuscript or choose the electronic submission option.  You can even get the process started if your manuscript isn’t completely finished by pre-registering.  Once you complete the process and submit payment, you will receive a receipt that should be kept for tracking your submission.

Each work is assigned a case number that can be used to track its progress through the system.  The U.S. Copyright Office receives thousands of submissions and there is currently a lengthy backlog of applications.  It could take several months for your application to be approved.  Once it is you will be notified and sent a certificate of registration for your work.

The Traditional Path

The processes outlined above are steps that self-published authors can take to secure legal rights to their work without help from others.  If you take the traditional publishing path, copyright registration will be done for you.   It is not uncommon for authors to be scared that a publisher may steal their work or just fearful in general of sending their manuscript out to publishers for review.  This is unlikely and a reputable publisher will not steal work and publish it without permission.  Putting your work in an envelope and mailing it yourself, known as the “poor man’s patent”, is not as reliable as you might think.  There is no evidence from the U.S. Copyright Office or elsewhere to suggest that this is a legally binding method of protecting a work.

Is copyrighting your work important to you?  Have you ever had any problems with copyright infringement?

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