Copyright Tips and Tidbits: How and When to Register, How to Format Your Notice, and What Not to Do

Self-publishers, take note: While it’s true that you hold an inherent copyright to your work just for the fact that you wrote it, should anyone try to infringe on your copyright you will be best served by registering with the US Copyright Office (www.copyright.gov). That may sound intimidating, but it is actually a fairly straightforward process.

How to Register

Start by going to the US Copyright Office website. The Copyright Office accepts both online and paper applications, and the applications come with easy-to-understand instructions. The filing fee (as of 2015) is $35 for online registration and $85 for hard copy.

In addition to the application and the filing fee, you will be asked to provide a copy of the “deposit” — what the Copyright Office calls the work to be registered. If you file electronically you can send an electronic file or a hard copy of your work; file with paper and you  have to send a hard copy. (The Copyright Office prefers online applications, but you are not bound by that.)

When to Register

You can register your book either before or after publication. Although simple, it can be a lengthy process, as getting the certificate can take nearly three months for the electronic application and nearly six months for paper applications. During particularly busy times, those lags can be even longer.

The good news is, unless you have reason to believe you will not be granted copyright, you don’t have to wait until you receive your certificate before publishing the work. The date of registration is the date the office receives the completed application, not the date you receive your certificate. Still, copyright registration is not something you want to let slip through the cracks. I would recommend beginning earlier rather than later.

Upon publication, if you have a print book, submit a hard copy to be held in the Library of Congress.

What Not to Include

When you apply for copyright, you are making a public record. That means anyone can view the information you supply. The Copyright Office website offers this pointed advice:

Personally identifying information, such as your address, telephone number, and email address, that is submitted on the registration application becomes part of the public record. Some information will be viewable in the Copyright Office’s on‑line databases that are available on the Internet. For this reason, you should provide only the information requested. Please do NOT provide any additional personal information that is not requested, such as your social security number or your driver’s license number.

As identity theft is a real problem in this country, heeding this advice only makes sense.

How and Where Your Copyright Notice Should Appear

Your copyright notice belongs on the reverse of the title page in your book. A valid copyright notice includes the word “Copyright” or the symbol “©”; the year of registration; and the copyright holder’s name, in that order:  © 2015 Katherine Pickett

Some publishers choose to use both the word and the symbol for copyright as well as the word “by” — Copyright © 2015 by Katherine Pickett — but that is not required.

Pitfall: Preregistration vs. Registration

The Copyright Office provides the option of “preregistration” for works that have not yet been completed. (Important: This is separate from registration of unpublished works.) The fee for preregistration is a whopping $140. I suspect this fee is intended to be a deterrent, as even the Copyright Office notes that preregistration is not helpful for most people. Rather, preregistration is recommended only for those who meet these two criteria:

  1. You think it is likely someone will infringe on your copyright before the work is made public, and
  2. The work isn’t finished.

Note also that even if you preregister, you will still need to go through the registration process. Except in extreme circumstances, you will most likely want to register your work rather than preregister it.

 

Like this blog? Find more advice and insights in Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, available through Hop On Publishing, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Left Bank Books, and other retailers

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10 thoughts on “Copyright Tips and Tidbits: How and When to Register, How to Format Your Notice, and What Not to Do”

  1. Should I use my legal name next to the Copyright or my writing name? I used my writing name when I sent in my work for Copyright, but now it is time to print…

    1. You are allowed to use a pseudonym for the copyright notice. You may want to get legal advice before making your final decision, however, as the copyright protection is a little different. You can learn more about it at Copyright.gov. Thanks for reading!

    1. Christy, the Canadian Intellectual Property Office is in charge of copyright registration in Canada. Their website is http://www.cipo.ic.gc.ca. The fee is $50 or $65 Canadian, depending on your method of filing. The process is roughly the same, but you don’t need to send in a copy of the work. The site has lots and lots of helpful information. I encourage you to check it out. Thanks for reading!

  2. Reblogged this on Danielle Lenee Davis and commented:
    Since I recently received notice that my copyright certificate of registration for my novel, The Protector, will be received within the next two weeks, I thought I’d reblog a post I read on another blog about copyright registration. The post is brief, but there’s good information here.

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