The topic today is copyright.
Oh, I know what you’re thinking: “If only she’d write about something more fun.” Well, if ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we’d all have a merry Christmas.*
Learning about copyright registration is about as exciting as watching the hair on my chin grow. Therefore, I’d like to give you a condensed primer and thus spare you the research pain I endured. Even those of you outside the U.S. may want to pay attention, because copyright protection is available regardless of the author’s nationality provided certain conditions are met (see page 2 of this copyright.gov link). Plus, many countries honor each other’s copyrights.
United States Copyright
Technically, any work created on or after January 1, 1978 is under copyright protection the moment it’s spawned, whether it’s published or not, thereby making copyright registration voluntary. But many authors and publishers choose to complete an official copyright registration. Small publishers like mine often leave it to the author.
But if work is automatically protected, why bother?
First of all, it creates a public record. Second of all, registration is required to sue in court for infringement, and if the litigation is successful, registered works are eligible for “statutory damages and attorney’s fees.”
Registration can be done electronically or by paper. The online option is quick and simple. You merely:
- Complete an online form.
- Pay a $35 nonrefundable filing fee.
- Print out the generated shipping slip for the deposit copies (your book or whatever your product is).
- Include this slip with two copies of the “best edition” work and mail the items off to the Library of Congress address that’s provided.
“Best edition” works are the editions that the “Library of Congress determines the most suitable for its purposes,” which is the one of highest quality. For books, that means a printed copy over an e-book, a hardcover over a paperback.
I received my certificate of copyright within six weeks of my application. Not bad. Paper applications can take up to six months.
One thing to note—all your submitted information is available to the public on the Internet. Therefore, I acquired a PO Box address and used this. No need to share my home address with every Tom, Dick, and Harry Dick.
As a bonus for copyright registration, your submission is automatically submitted to the Library of Congress. Of course, whether your book stays there or finds a new home somewhere else is a topic for another post…
So there you have it, the candy and nuts. Perhaps we’ll have a merry Christmas after all.
If you’re a writer or artist, have you ever submitted a copyright registration? Would you consider doing so? Do you like candy and nuts?
Images other than my copyright certificate are from Microsoft Clip Art.
*Phrase attributed to Don Meredith (American football player/commentator)
**Update** 12/18/2012, 9:55 am:
Based on some of the comments, I wanted to clarify that you can register both unpublished and published works for copyright. However, if you obtain a copyright registration for an unpublished work, you need to register again once it’s published.