Saturday, August 12, 2006

Everyone Says I Should Copyright My Work

by James Buchanan

Under title 17 of the United States Code, copyright protects you from unauthorized use of your work. Most countries have some variant of the copyright law and you need to check out your countries laws if you're not registering the work in the US. Title 17 applies to all original works, including: literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. The work doesnÂ’t have to have been published for you to register your copyright.

The moment you write your work on paper, you own the copyright to it. So what people actually mean is that you should register your copyright. Various reasons make it advantageous to register the copyright. Registration establishes a public record of your copyright and allows you to bring an infringement suit, if that becomes necessary. If you secure it before (or within five years) of publication, it pretty much seals your case* and if made within three months after publication you may be entitled to statutory damages and attorney’s fees (otherwise you’d actually have to prove that you suffered monetary loss – which can be a big hurdle).

Registration is actually very easy. The term of your copyright lasts for your life plus 70 years. YouÂ’ll need the following:

A completed application. The PDF forms are easy and you can fill them out on line and print them out.

A check/money order for the filing fee. Current cost (as of August 12, 2006) is $45.00;

And a non-returnable deposit of the work. The deposit requirements depend on whether the work has already been published. If you havenÂ’t published the work yet youÂ’ll need to submit one complete copy with the form and your check. If itÂ’s already been published then you need to send two complete copies of the best edition. They donÂ’t require anything fancy, just readable. Heck, the government will take a legible handwritten manuscript (although they do ask for ink). What they are primarily concerned with is that what you send them be suitable for long term storage. So good paper, and stapled or bound in some manner.

You can find everything you need right here:
Copyright Office

*Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only and should not be a substiindividualizedvdualized legal advice. I'm probably not a lawyer in your state, and you're not my client. This article also applies to US Copyright only. You should check your own regions rules/regulations or seek the advice of a local attorney.


veinglory said...

I lean the other way on this issue--and would say that even of you do register (legitamite only really in the US) please do not mark you manuscript with a copyright symbol. Many editors *reall* take that badly. Almost nobody has the chance to steal my work before I submit it, and after that I expect my publisher to deal with copyright and now avoid those who don't.

The best conversation I know about the matter is here

James Buchanan said...

of course if you wait until after it's published... you have to give them two copies. And I would never put a copyright symbol on my work.

I wish, at this date, I was dealing with publihers who took out the copyright for me... most e-publishers don't.

veinglory said...

Hopefully that will change. Otherwise they are essentially docking $50 from you share of royalties :( -- and with many publishers that's a pretty large proportion of them ;)

veinglory said...

Oh, I forgot one tip--with stories and novellas you can register than as an anthology and so cover all of them for the price of one ;)

James Buchanan said...

Yep... pretty much 1/2 the first quarter royalties right there. And I hesitated to put the "collection" idea in the main post because I'd hate for the copyright office to get wind of it. But, yeah, I collect all my short-stories/novellas and register them as an antho at the close of the year.

Kis Lee said...

Thanks for the informative article.