Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Technical Topics -- Registering Your Copyright

Since I'm not getting any appreciable amount of blogging done, I thought I'd repost something I put up elsewhere.

In answer to the question of whether someone should register a copyright for their unpublished manuscript:

The very short answer is that this is something you don't have to worry about.

The longer answer is . . .when you put your work in permanent form -- when you type it into the computer -- it is copyright RIGHT THEN.

The moment your work hits the computer, it has all the protection available under copyright law.
No further action is necessary.

Most folks who ask this question are worried about three considerations.

The first is -- 'What if somebody steals my work and claims it as her own?

What if a subeditor at the publishing house takes my manuscript and puts her name on it and submits it? What if somebody plagiarizes this scene?
How can I prove it's mine?'

I do not say this has never happened. But you are much more likely to get struck by lightning while playing the nose flute.

If you lie awake at night worrying about this, go register the copyright. It's cheaper than prescription sleep aids.

A simpler way prove authorship is to take the seven letters of your last name and start seven chapters in a row with those letters.
Or add seven sentences where the first word starts with those letters.
Or name characters after your greatgrandparents.

You now have evidence the manuscript is yours. Sleep in peace.

The second consideration is --'Will somebody steal my idea and go write their own book before I can get mine published?'

Skipping nimbly back from the brink of saying anything uncharitable about the originality of most people's ideas ...ideas cannot be copyrighted.

Even if your copyright registration proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that you were the first person in history to write about an m/m/m/f/m werewolf junk band that fights crime ... you can't keep other folks from using the same idea.

The third consideration --'Is registering copyright part of the business?' Am I supposed to do this to look professional?

Well, no. It doesn't make you look professional. It makes you look like a dork.

In e-pub and POD pub, copyright registration is often one of those upfront expenses the publisher passes on to the writer.
Check your contract to make sure the publisher hasn't grabbed the copyright himself.
Then pay to have the copyright registered if you want an official copyright.

In standard print publishing, the publisher pays to register copyright.


  1. Huh. I wonder where my nose flute is. Not too many thunderstorms where I am, but I'll be careful ;)

  2. It is fear of getting hit by lightning that has led to the sad decline in folk noseflute.

  3. Anonymous4:47 AM

    Nice Post