Guidance. The Business of Book Copyright.

Never underestimate the importance of securing your own work in your own name. With Legal Copyright Protection, you put your flag in the sand and will be able to challenge plagiarism or any other infringements.

Your Book's Title, Author, ISBN and ASIN identify your work.

Add the particular registration office, their URL and the dates of submission, receipt and confirmation.

Add any other sources you may have registered copyright.

Finally there are links to the US Copyright Office and The Legal Deposit Office of the British Library.


Imagine you’re in a bookstore and you pick up a random novel. You notice there’s something familiar about the dialogue. You have a closer look and realise that everything in this book is exactly like your book, even your character Gerry, who’s now called Kerry.

Copyright is something authors often wonder about but it’s so complex that few are eager to get involved with it. And it needn't be an author’s first worry. Certainly not if the creative aspects are underway. Another time. Later. But, if you’re self-publishing a book, then the onus is on you to protect your intellectual property. And you will really need to if you’re going to avoid the plagiarism and copyright infringements you found above.

What is copyright?

The word, copyright means what it says on the label. It’s the right to copy. When books are published, this right prevents others from replicating your work and selling it (for profit or otherwise) without your consent.

Protection under copyright means your book will remain your original creative work and intellectual property, even after you’ve published it in the public sphere. The rights remain yours and no-one else’s unless you choose otherwise (by selling them to a publisher, for instance).

How does protection work?

There are four exclusive rights that you, the author, possesses. These include:

• The right to reproduce or make copies of your work

• The right to distribute copies of your work

• The right to create a derivative work

• The right to display or perform your work publicly

In the U.S. and U.K., copyright protection on an original work exists the moment you create that work (and extends for 70 years after your death). You own the rights to your work the instant you write it.

That’s fine so first of all, prove when that moment was. Mail a copy to yourself, email a copy to yourself and start writing on Publication Portal. All can be date-stamped and prove you started when you did.

These are examples of unregistered copyrights.

What is registered copyright?

Registered copyright is what you need. It means you really can sleep soundly knowing the full weight of law is behind and not only that, can be brought to bear on anyone who interferes with your book's journey.

If you register your work with the U.S. Copyright Office, you’ve created a public record of your authorship so the whole world can see that you are the creator of your intellectual property.

Registration costs money. Well, only $55 but that’s still a meal out for you and your favourite person. So why do people bother?

People bother because it’s insurance.

If you believe that somebody is infringing on your intellectual property, like in the example above where Gerry becomes Kerry, and you want to sue for compensation, you can't. You must register with the U.S. Copyright Office before you can bring a lawsuit to enforce it.

That’s pretty compelling insurance, especially if your work could lead to healthy sales and maybe even a movie rights.

How to copyright a book

1. Head over to the portal

2. Click on “Literary Works,” then “Register A Literary Work.”

3. Take a minute to create an account with the U.S. Copyright Office if you didn’t do so already.

4. Go to “Copyright Registration” on the left side of your screen and click on “Register A New Claim.”

5. Click “Start Registration.”

6. Complete the form.

7. Pay the U.S. Copyright Office. Online registration will cost $55.

8. Send in the "best edition" of your manuscript to the U.S. Copyright Office.

If you don’t trust the Internet, you can always submit a paper application. Your mailed-in package should include a printed version of the application, a copy of your work, and the filing fee ($85). The processing time is 10 - 15 months for paper applications but remember it’s lodged when they receive it.

Any work protected by U.S. copyright can be registered, regardless of your nationality.

If you’ve taken the above steps, your copyright is registered: the fact that you own the intellectual property of your book is now a matter of public record.

Should you register your book before sending it to a publisher?

Is it mandatory to register your book before showing it to editors or agents?

No. Firstly, your book will undergo major changes and revisions during editing. Secondly, unless you’re dealing with scam artists, there’s no incentive for an agent to steal your work. They’ve already found a pretty good way to get money from you: it’s called commission!

Publishing professionals are unlikely to jeopardise their reputations on the remote chance that stealing your book will turn a profit.

That said, the U.S. Copyright Office does urge “timely registration," which means registering within three months of the work’s publication date, or before any infringement takes place.

This earns you some pretty big benefits, including the ability to recover attorney’s fees and statutory damages up to $150,000.

Keep in mind that “publication” in this case means the day you first sell or distribute a copy of your book. If you’re at this stage in the Publication Portal process, that’s just two or three quick stages from where you are now.

So do you want to risk a judge laughing at your attorney while you had a large envelope with your manuscript?

What about international copyright?

While the U.S. Copyright Office strongly recommends registration for all authors, it’s important to note that this might not be the case in the rest of the world. For instance, there is no U.K. equivalent.

If you’re self-publishing in the U.K., all you need to do is mail a copy of your work to the Legal Deposit Office of the British Library within one month of publication. Bear in mind that this only applies to print books, so don’t start mailing your Kindle to London.


Long story short, this is what authors from any country should know about the U.S. registration system:

U.S. authors will need to register their work before they can bring a suit for infringement in federal court.

Foreign authors outside of the U.S. can sue for infringement in the U.S. — though, without registration, they are not entitled to certain financial protections.

If you’ve registered your work in the U.S., you’re covered in the U.S. and other countries signed on to the Berne Convention.

And add to that, Publication Portal will, upon demand, produce a report of the exact moment you uploaded any manuscript and associated copyright files and the details of the attachments.

The copyright protection itself is going to be conclusive anyway but theres no harm having a little extra system-based confirmation.

The Publication Report will detail your name, publishing company (if applicable), your pen name, address, email, title, description, synopsis and uploaded files and their upload dates.



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