Copyrighting Your Work
Copyrighting your book is a lot easier than you might think!
A lot of authors get hung up on the same questions.
How do I protect my work?
Should I get a copyright?
How do I get a copyright?
Copyrights are a very nice hallmark of modern society. The mere presence of a copyright can deter many a pirate who would steal the exact piece of work that you spent years creating. However, they are not foolproof, and they don’t make your book un-pirate-able. People can always steal something if they really put their mind to it.
How Do I Protect My Work?
A copyright is one of the best things you can have if you have a book you don’t want stolen. Copyrights give you the legal precedence that allow you to sue those that infringe on your rights for damages (i.e. they steal your book and distribute it).
In many countries, authors are considered the copyright owner of their work the moment it is written. And if that isn’t enough, some authors do things the old fashioned way and send themselves a copy of their manuscript through the mail so it gets stamped as extra verification of that they, in fact, wrote what they did. This isn’t really necessary, and it isn’t your best bet if you really want your book to be fully protected.
If you want your book to be fully protected, then you should file for a copyright for your book with the copyright office! A copyright through the federal government provides protection, and rights, that are not otherwise available to authors and creatives. For those in the United States, the US Patent Office can be reached via https://www.copyright.gov and here you can file for your copyright. Copyright rules vary from one country to another, so be sure to check out what the current rules are where you live.
In the US, your copyright actually extends pretty far. In fact, it serves as an assurance that people don’t go and write their own books to hijack your series. These rules change from time to time, so be sure to check this out!
But, as I said earlier, you might be able to deter a pirate with a copyright but they’re rather hard to get rid of entirely. I know of several authors who got victimized more when they tried to take legal action. That being said, I know even more who were just ignored.
The issue is that many pirates pirate your book from other countries. Worse yet, not every country respects copyrights, so you might find yourself up a creek without a paddle.
But, the silver lining that I have often heard mentioned is that those who get pirated books seldom purchase them to begin with. I know of several authors who reason that their book’s getting pirated doesn’t lose them anything. I don’t know if I’d go that far personally, but it’s an interesting thought.
Should I Get a Copyright?
I know I love copyrighting my work. There are several reasons why I do it. For starters, I really like getting super official letters from the government. It makes me feel like a secret agent. …Or just really important at the very least.
Once I got my super official letter from the patent office I felt super excited. I was on cloud nine thanks to how cool the copyright paperwork looked, and how great it felt to have something copyrighted.
As I said before, your work is automatically copyrighted once you write it in quite a few countries. That being said, this section is for those who want to file a copyright with the government (and what I say only applies for those in the US and is accurate up to the writing of this article).
What may be even more important for some authors is that filing a copyright can help you get noticed by publishers.
Yes, you read that right.
How? Well, some publishing houses actually check in with the patent office from time to time to see what’s getting written. As they see it, if they keep up to date on the newest books getting copyrighted they might be able to swoop you up before anyone else!
The moment I got my first book copyrighted I found myself receiving emails from several different publishing houses. Some were large, some were small, some were shady. I checked out all the various publishers and, after thinking about it for a while, I decided to self publish. You may find that these publishers are your best option, but for me, they were not.
Additionally, if you want to write more books, especially more books in the same series/universe, you may benefit from copyrighting your work. As I said before, this is just an added level of precaution, but it can be a rewarding one. You may want to get a law expert involved and bounce some questions off of them too.
How Do I Get a Copyright?
Getting a copyright is pretty easy, especially for those who are tech-adept. If you are computer-illiterate then you may want to either hire this out, or conscript your kids/grandkids/someone you trust that knows technology.
You’ll need some paperwork on hand before you file for your copyright.
For starters, you’ll need your finished work! I found that it was very easy to submit a copyright to https://www.copyright.gov with just an electronic file of my book, but they also allow for paper versions of your work. If you want to send in a paper manuscript you will have to mail it to the copyright office yourself.
Regardless of how you send in your work to be copyrighted, ensure that you follow the rules on the government site. Also, don’t accidentally send your work to the wrong people! You want to send a book to the US government’s patent office!
I can’t guide you step-by-step on submitting your copyright info, but I can say that I also needed my social security number (so they knew I was me when I filed). I also needed my address so they knew who to send the copyright paperwork to.
The government site for copyrighting is rather straightforward, so you should be able to follow along, but, as with all government sites, it’s easy to get lost. If you get totally lost, you may want to just hire an expert to file for you. However, experts may charge you a lot, so just a heads up!
I hope I was able to answer all of your questions with this post! If not, please drop a comment below with your question, and if it isn’t too specific, I may be able to help! That being said, a lot of this is legal advice that I can’t actually answer for you, so you may have to consult a copyright professional.
How much does it cost to get a copyright?
I paid $55 for my copyright, but the price may go up in the coming years (it should only be a marginal increase though). The copyright fee I paid was the minimum you pay, and it’s what the government charges for them to process your request. You may find people charging a little bit more, or a lot more to help you file, and this is your choice!
How long does a copyright last?
My copyrights extend over the rest of my life, plus an additional 70 years after I kick the bucket. Since I’m only 21 right now, that means I’ll have my copyright for a few more years!