Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Adventures in Self-Publishing: Copyright

(FYI: All of the following post applies to the issue of copyright for authors within the United States. YMMV)

Here's an aspect of self-publishing I totally overlooked--and I imagine I'm not alone in that.


Yeah. I know. Yawn. But hey, it's worth spending a little time thinking about.

If your work is published by a major publisher, generally they will register copyright for you, but if you self-publish, you need to decide if going through the registration process is something you want to do. has a good explanation of copyright. Your copyright exists from the moment you create the work. That's the law. You don't have to do anything for your work to be copyrighted; it is automatically yours from the moment you create it. That means you may sell it, or give it away. It's yours. Others do not have the right to sell, loan or give away your work without your permission.

So if you already own the copyright, why register it?

For one reason, if you don't register your copyright, it becomes more difficult to prove that your work belongs to you. For example, some authors have received letters from asking for proof the author has the right to publish the book.

If the work was previously published, and the rights have reverted to you, it's generally easy to prove. You can show the letter or contract stating that the rights have reverted to you and the book is yours.

But what if this is original work and you just put it up online for the first time?

Yes, the law says it's yours, but registering your copyright with the United States Copyright Office is a form of protection. It is a legal record of your work, and a legal claim of your rights to that work.

So how do you register copyright? The United States Copyright Office has actually made this remarkably easy for digital authors.

You wil need to create an account with them, which enables you to file copyright claims.

Then you fill out the form online, pay the fee ($35 for online filing), and upload a digital copy of your book.

You will then receive a receipt showing you have applied for copyright registration, and approximately 2.5 months later (according to their site), you will receive your registration certificate.

That's all there is to it. 

Not the most exciting topic, but an important one, so I thought I'd mention it.

(I've been super-busy this week, or I threw this topic out there. Next time I'll get back to reviewing workshops from RWA National.)

Happy writing everyone.


1 comment:

Deborah Wright said...

Barb, thanks for taking the time to share this info. Copyright is probably something almost everyone forgets about, what with all the other details you have to figure out in self-publishing.

Nolo Press has a book on copyright -- The Copyright Handbook, What Every Writer Needs to Know -- for those who need more details.