Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Business of Writing: Copyrighting Your Book #MFRWOrg #ASMSG

Photo © Scanrail | - Copyright symbol on computer keyboard
Here I am, getting ready to release my book The Business of Writing, and I've neglected to discuss book copyrighting.

So sue me. :D

The Basics.

You do not have to register your book's copyright. From the moment it exists in tangible or digital form, your work is automatically protected under US copyright law. Simply affix a notice in the frontmatter using this format:

Copyright ©20xx by Your Name

If you don't have access to the © symbol, it's acceptable to substitute the text equivalent: (c)

That's all there is to it.

Under Title 17 of the US Code (Copyright Law of the United States), an author's work "endures for a term consisting of the life of the author and 70 years after the author's death." There are exceptions for works of various types that were created before certain dates, but the lifetime plus seventy years duration is the general rule.

The full contents of Title 17 may be viewed via this web page: For your convenience, it's organized by chapter, and you have the opportunity to download Title 17 in its entirety as a PDF file. Each chapter may be viewed either as HTML or as a PDF file.

The Next Level.

Although all created works enjoy automatic copyright protection, registering the copyright is a means of formally establishing the date of creation, which then becomes crucial in winning a plagiarism lawsuit. All traditional publishers and most small presses execute this option for every book they publish.

If your book is ready to be released into retail channels, or it already has been, and you wish to secure the next level of protection for your book, registering the copyright may be accomplished via the following steps:
  1. Visit the electronic Copyright Office (eCO;, affiliated with the Library of Congress, and establish an account.
  2. On the left-hand menu, under the category "Copyright Registration," in most cases you will select "Register a New Claim." A "claim" in this context means that you as author or publisher are claiming that the copyright of the work should be registered to you (or the author you represent). It has nothing to do with claiming copyright infringement.
  3. Follow the prompts to describe your work. The help files are quite extensive and will open in a new tab for your continued reference. In addition, the eCO home page contains links to tutorials and other tools.
  4. Pay the appropriate processing fee ($35 or $55 per title for online registration, regardless of whether you are required to mail physical copies of the book or are entitled to upload the digital version). Payment is accomplished via, the payment site operated by the US Treasury Department, and you may choose to pay via electronic funds transfer from your bank account or via credit card. You must scroll down the page until you get to the credit card payment option. For more information, refer to Circular 4, Copyright Office Fees.
  5. Submit the required number of copies of your work. If it is only published electronically, you may upload a qualifying electronic file. However, if your book exists in print as well as e-book editions, and it is already published, then you must mail two copies of the "best edition" within 30 days to the Library of Congress at the address they provide during that phase of the registration process.

Once your books have been received and processed, the Copyright Office will mail you a certificate of registration.

The eCO web site is a bit cumbersome, but it's possible to create templates if you expect to be registering several titles containing much of the same data, such as author name and contact information.

Good luck with this and all aspects of your publishing endeavors!


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