Is your work protected?
Did you know that just because you added the word copyright and a year, that your book isn’t protected under U.S. Copyright law. Mailing it to yourself doesn’t count either. So don’t waste the paper or stamp.
When I begin working with an author, I’ll check for things like a copyright page. I had wrongly assumed that because a book had a copyright mark (not all self-published books do) that the copyright was filed with the U.S. Copyright office. I was wrong.
Having managed every aspect of the publishing process, I know how complicated it can be and I think it’s incredibly brave when people choose to go it alone. Self-publishing contains many moving parts, so it is easy to overlook… anything. While some issues may be minor, a missing copyright can be devastating. If you fail file the registration, you have no legal recourse should someone take and reuse part of it.
Registration, like anything having to do with a government related task is a little complicated, but not impossible, so I always ask why. Here are the most common reasons I hear when asking someone why they failed to submit registration and why, according to the U.S. Copyright Office, they’re wrong.
My work is published so I’m protected.
Publishing your work will not legally protect you if you intend to sue for copyright infringement. You must provide proof of copyright if you ever hope to successfully sue someone or protect yourself against being sued for copyright infringement.
I mailed it to myself.
Nope. Commonly referred to as the “Poor man’s Copyright” this is not legally binding and will not protect your work against copyright infringement. In fact, there is no provision for this type of copyright according to U.S. Copyright laws.
I’m getting it trademarked.
No, you can’t. In fact, it’s not the same thing. A trademark protects words and phrases that identify the owner or brand. Like a slogan or tagline. While a copyright actually protects authorship.
I didn’t know.
Unfortunately, ignorance isn’t a defense.
It doesn’t matter.
It mattered enough for your to put those words together to create a book, right? I’ve been told that because it was a first work, could have been better work, that it doesn’t matter. But it does. Whether it’s your first or your fifth. While copyright registration is not legally required, it is your original work and it should be protected.
Is it too late?
Nope. As long as there is no infringement, you may still register your work while it is protected, which as a single author is your lifetime plus 70 years.
While it’s not legally required that you copyright your book, why wouldn’t you? It’s so easy to do and costs as little as $40. Still have questions? Check out the U.S. Copyright Office page for more details and to register your work.
Not sure you’re ready to publish? Check out my next post for inspiration and direction.
Be sure to leave your comments and questions for me, in the space below.