Your book’s copyright page is a key aspect of copyright protection, but isn’t sufficient on its own to fully safeguard the content of your book.
In this article I’ll share all the steps that you need to take in addition to creating a copyright page to maximize your protection against copyright infringement.
What Protections Does a Book Copyright Confer to the Author?
Copyrighting your book will protect it from intellectual property theft. In its most basic form, your copyright makes it illegal for someone else to reprint copies of your book and sell them – or even hand them out for free.
But copyright goes beyond the right to make copies of a book. For example, if you’re writing a fiction book, your copyright will also protect you from someone else lifting your plot and its characters and rewriting the same story with different character names and in a different location.
If you are a Harry Potter fan and you read an exact clone of a Potter book but with different character names and taking place in India, you’ll figure it out after you read just a handful of pages. This is precisely what copyrighting is designed to prevent.
If your book is nonfiction, you’ll likely be using your expertise in order to publish a unique solution to a problem that your target audience suffers from, from health to relationships to psychology to finances.
While specific data or procedures may not be copyrightable (they may instead require a patent for your protection), your explanation, illustration and description of your methodology is subject to copyright.
Finally, any names or expressions that you coin in order to brand your unique approach (such as “The 1-Hour a Day Diet” or “Investing Without Effort”) are not subject to copyright. Instead you’ll need to register a trademark to prevent others from using them for financial gain.
Is a Copyright Page All I Need?
It’s not as simple as that. In order to maximize your chances of prevailing in a copyright infringement suit, you’ll need to diligently document the creation of your intellectual property. This includes keeping in a safe place all of your:
- Written notes (make sure you date them)
- Electronic files
- Charts, graphs, research
- Mind maps
- Older draft manuscripts
- Email communications
- Written or electronic documentation outlining characters, plots and places
…plus any other evidence of authorship.
In short, to be fully protected don’t throw anything out when you’re done writing your book, don’t recycle any paper with information about your book, keep backups of all book-related electronic files on an external drive or a on USB stick, and keep these storage devices in a secure place.
Do I Need to Apply to the U.S. Copyright Office?
It depends. If you live in Canada or in many other countries, copyright is automatically granted – you own it the moment you write your book and you may not need to produce a certificate of copyright as evidence in an infringement suit.
But if you live in the United States, the only mechanism for proving to the courts that you’re the legitimate author of your intellectual property is to produce a certificate of copyright from the U.S. Copyright Office.
For example, if you discover that someone else has written a book identical to yours and it’s clear that your book content was stolen, the date of registration on your certificate of copyright – which is a document in the public record – will prove your ownership to the courts.
With a registered copyright, you can assert your copyright starting from the official date of registration, which allows you file a claim for infringement without having to prove others’ prior knowledge of your work.
<H2> What Are the Actual “Rights” in Copyright?
When you copyright your book, you’ll be granted the following rights:
- Exclusive right for making copies of your book: You may grant third parties permission to reproduce parts of your book or your book in its entirety for a limited time and for a limited quantity in exchange for financial compensation.
- Exclusive right to distribute your book: You may grant others permission to distribute your work on your behalf through a mutually beneficial financial arrangement.
- Exclusive right to create derivative works: For example, you may grant others permission to translate your book to foreign languages and to distribute it in those markets through a mutually beneficial financial arrangement.
What’s the Cost of Copyrighting My Book?
The least expensive way to copyright a book with the U.S. Copyright Office is to do it online through a process called Single Application (visit: www.copyright.gov for more details). This will cost you only $35.
Keep in mind that this type of application is subject to some restrictions:
- You must be the only author listed on the copyright registration form (if you’re co-authoring your book you’ll have to file a Standard Application instead)
- You must register a single work (for example, a very large book split into several volumes isn’t considered a single work)
- You must be the sole claimant (if you’re sharing your copyright ownership with others you’ll have to file a Standard Application)
- You must write the book by yourself (if you hired a ghostwriter to write the book on your behalf you’ll still be considered the copyright owner, but you’ll have to file a Standard Application instead).
If you must file a Standard Application for the reasons stated above, your cost will increase to $55 (online applications only). If you want to file a paper application and send it through snail mail, your cost will go up to $85.
What Are the Steps I Need to Follow to Copyright My Book?
Step 1: Add a Copyright Page to Your Book
This page must be placed on the backside of the title page in your book (the title page is one of the first pages in your front matter and it must contain your book title – often a reproduction of your book cover in black & white or grayscale).
Your copyright page must include the following information:
- A copyright notification (e.g. Copyright © <year> by <copyright owner, e.g. your name, your company name, etc.>).
- Your publisher’s name and address. If you’re self-publishing your book, then create a publisher imprint or use your business as the publisher. If you don’t want to include a physical street address, use the publisher’s URL instead. This information is only required so that others can get in touch with you if the need arises.
- Your book’s edition followed by the date of publication – month and year will suffice (e.g. First Edition, September 2019).
- The book’s print run if applicable (e.g. first printing, second printing, etc.).
- A statement of rights (e.g. “All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, scanning or otherwise, or through any information browsing, storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.”)
- Your book’s bibliographical record. To request this information as a self-published author in the U.S. visit: https://locexternal.service-now.com/auth.
- Permissions from other copyrighted works, if applicable (e.g. if you’re quoting a poem from another author in your book, you must first obtain their publisher’s permission in writing and post it on your copyright page).
- Legal disclaimers, if applicable. You’ll need to consult with an attorney to obtain the appropriate text for your book, especially if it’s a legal requirement by a government agency (e.g. if you offer investment advice, the SEC may require that you show one or more disclaimers. If you make claims about results readers can expect from your system, you’ll have to abide by the disclaimer rules of the FTC).
Step 2: Register Your Copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office
For maximum protection, or if you live in the U.S., file your application with the U.S. Copyright Office. As stated above, you can do so online by visiting www.copyright.gov or by mail by completing Form TX (downloadable from the same website).
Step 3: Mail Two Copies of Your Book to the U.S. Library of Congress
After you file your copyright registration, you’ll need to fulfill the mandatory deposit requirement of the U.S. Library of Congress by mailing two copies of your book to the following address (this must be done within three months of publication):
Library of Congress
Attn: 407 Deposits
101 Independence Avenue SE
Washington, DC 20559-6600
Your book is the labor of love. Make sure you give it the best level of protection possible against intellectually property theft.
If you’re thinking about filing an application for copyright, it’s always a good idea to first consult with an attorney. They could either check your form for accuracy or fill it out and file it on your behalf.
Leave me a comment below if you have any questions or a specific need that I can help you address – I operate an author services firm that specializes in helping entrepreneurs, professionals and business owners who want to publish books as a calling card for prospects, to establish their status as an expert or to just to generate additional leads for their businesses.
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Bennett R. Coles is an award-winning author of 6 books published through Harper Collins (NY) and Titan Publishing Group (UK). He is also the publisher at Promontory Press and the founder/CEO of Cascadia Author Services, a boutique full-service firm that specializes in premium author services specifically designed for busy professionals. Our end-to-end services include writer coaching, ghostwriting, editing, proofing, cover design, book layout, eBook production, printing, distribution and marketing.