How Do I Copyright My Book?

One of the first questions asked by new self-publishers is, “How do I copyright my book?”

Technically, copyright is automatic, by virtue of the fact that you wrote the manuscript. While copywriting your book is not required, following the simple steps to “deposit” and register your work with the US Copyright Office gives you an additional advantage in the event someone plagiarizes your work.

Your book can be copyrighted either before or after publication, either in hard-copy form or electronically. As you might expect, the electronic alternative is faster, easier, and less expensive. This method also offers the ability to monitor the status of your application online.

Basic instructions from the US Copyright office begin here:

http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl109.html

This page contains links to other resources that will help you make the decisions that are best for your situation.

Most authors are surprised to learn that only the content of a book can be copyrighted; individual book titles are not protected by copyright law. A quick trip to Amazon will confirm that many books share identical titles. Milions and millions of books have been published. There simply aren’t enough words in the English language for each of them to have a unique title.

Series titles are another matter. These can be protected under trademark law. Trademarks are granted on a first-come basis, so it’s important to conduct a screening search to make sure your intended series title is not already in use.

A discussion of this topic and other publishing-related legal issues can be found at www.copylaw.com and many other websites.

Copyright and trademark issues are much more complex than they seem. It’s possible, but may not be advisable, to “do-it-yourself.” There’s no substitute for a consultation with your own attorney, who will apply his or her in-depth knowledge of the law to your unique publishing situation.

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