Finished writing a book? Great! Now find out how to copyright your book and protect your intellectual property with a paper trail.
Whether a science fiction masterpiece or an informative work on endangered frogs, a book takes time, diligence, knowledge, a critical eye, and huge amounts of creative energy. The completed work is infused with the unique imagination and insight of the author. It is a valuable piece of intellectual property that no other individual could recreate — unless it is copied.
Copyright protection is very important for all creative works; a novel or non-fiction piece which took months, even years to finish, is no exception. Learn how to copyright your book, when to do it, and why copyrighting a book is so important.
Copyright Information for Writers
What does copyright mean to writers? It means protection for the actual combination of words. Ideas, concepts, and theories are not protected by law, but your original expression is. Consider these tips when copyrighting a book.
First, copyright protection is inherent to a creative piece. Any manuscript, even one hand-written with ink and stored in a sock drawer, is just as protected by law as a published novel with an official copyright registration. No one has any legal right to copy, adapt, distribute, or display a literary work that is not in the public domain.
Second, registration is not necessary for a work to be protected under copyright law, but it definitely helps in cases of copyright infringement. Copyrighting a book is a simple way to create proof that you are the original author of a work and that the work was created on a certain date.
Third, it is easy to copyright your book. Unlike filing for a trademark or a patent, copyright registration is relatively simple, inexpensive, and efficient. There is a form, a fee, and a great resource to have questions answered — the copyright office.
Steps for Copyrighting a Book
So, how do you copyright a book? First, decide when and what to copyright. There are several options:
- Register the first chapters before mailing to potential book publishers, and then register a second time when the entire work is finished
- Wait until the entire work is completed and copyright before publishing
- Copyright the finished, published book
Next, fill out the proper form for a literary work. Either contact the U.S. Copyright Office and have the form mailed by post, file electronically on the government copyright office website, or if you live in the Washington, D.C. area, head over to the office and file in person. The form to fill out for copyrighting a book, as well as other literary works, is known as Form TX. The form will include questions such as the name of the original author, the title of the work, and if the work was for hire. This application does need to be filled out correctly. If you have questions, you can contact the copyright office by phone or through the office website.
Turn in the properly filled out application form as well as the required fee and a copy of the book. If the work is unpublished, simply send one complete copy for the copyright office to hold as a deposit. If filing electronically, you can send an electronic copy. If sending a hard copy, there are no specific formatting requirements, although staples, binding, or some other method of organization is appreciated. For already published books (published as of January 1, 1978), send two complete copies.
Once the copyright application is filed for your book there is nothing left to do but wait for the receipt to arrive in the mail. Store it somewhere safe just in case you ever have any need to reference your official copyright registration.
Why Copyright Your Book
Knowing how to copyright your book is important if there is any concern that your work could be copied. Copyright infringement happens. Musicians copy the work of other musicians, artists sometimes are more than ‘inspired’ by the creation of another, and yes, writers copy other writers. Copyrighting a book offers the security of a paper trail if someone does decide to copy, adapt, display, or distribute your work.