A book copyright for your fiction is one of the necessary evils for every fiction writer, especially if you are interested in fully protecting your work. It can make the difference between your words making you a lot of money or making someone else a lot of money from your words.
That's right! If you fail to properly protect your writing, no matter how unimportant you think your material is, someone else could use it in their work in whole or in part and there isn't much you can do about it besides fighting it out in court for months to years.
Protecting your work of fiction with a registered copyright from the Copyright Office of the United States is totally voluntary, but is required if you want to pursue an infringement case with someone that you are accusing of stealing your work.
Copyrights apply to all forms of written textual materials with or without illustrations including nondramatic literary works, fiction, nonfiction, poetry, contributions to collective works, compilations, directories, catalogs, dissertations, theses, reports, speeches, bound or loose-leaf volumes, pamphlets, brochures, and single pages containing text.
Keep in mind that you don't just have to copyright published materials; you can copyright unpublished materials as well. In fact, I highly encourage you do so you can protect your fiction works in progress as well. This includes but is not limited to your outline, notes, early drafts, and audio tapes of your recited book.
You must have a book copyright in place in order to seek punitive damages as a result of stolen materials. These punitive damages include sales made as a result of your work or of the sales of your ideas.
Your writing is your business and if someone else is making a profit from your business without your permission, that is highly unethical and highly illegal. Not to mention that you could be losing a lot of money.
There are strict guidelines for all writers when it comes to your book copyright. Most people are oblivious to these guidelines and put their trust in a third party to copyright their work for them. As a writer, your words are your greatest asset. Your assets are insured by copyrighting your fiction through the proper channels.
Hundreds of infringement cases plague the court systems every year because immoral writers try to mix your exact words in their books and websites without giving you proper credit for your work or asking for your permission to do so. These literary thieves are carefully combing the Internet for unprotected websites or the ones that fail to add the "circle C" to each of their pages. This is a growing concern with the Internet because the there is so much information out there that is too easy to obtain and so difficult to keep track of.
Copyrighting your fiction, whether it is an eBook, hard cover book, or even a web page is one of the most important things you need to be thinking about once you begin the writing process. From the time your first word hits the paper, your entire work is at risk of being stolen or used for other writer's profits.
Creating a book copyright is so simple, anyone can do it! You shouldn't pay anyone but the United States Government for a United States Copyright. There are a lot of companies out there that will charge you three times the cost of an actual copyright filing which, after seeing how easy the process of obtaining a copyright is, it simply blows my mind that they can take advantage of you like that.
Don't let your work slip away from you and end up on someone else's website or in someone's book. There are also simple low cost temporary method to protect your fiction book in progress without having to file for an actual copyright that won't cost you an arm and a leg and that are perfectly legal and binding in the court systems.
Remember, your written word is your biggest asset as a fiction writer. Protect all of your words as best as you can so no one profits from your creativity!
There are a couple methods that can help you protect the content of your books. The few available ways to copyright your fiction during the writing stage and even after the work is complete will help.
The first and best method you can use to obtain a book copyright for your fiction is to submit your request through the Library of Congress.
This is the preferred and safest way of obtaining a book copyright. This provides the maximum protection for your work since it is held in the Library of Congress archives.
To submit your work to the U.S. Copyright Office, you can register either electronically or through the mail. The easiest and less expensive way is to create an eCO account and submit your book copyright through the electronic Copyright Office (eCO). To submit it online electronically, it will only cost you $35.00 and take up to 13 months to process. A hard copy submission and registration is $50.00 and can take up to 18 months.
When you submit your work online, you will get faster processing time, online status of your filing, secure online payment, and the ability to upload certain categories of work into eCO as electronic files.
Your book copyright becomes effective the day they receive your work and you will receive certification of your copyright in the mail in four to five months. If you go through a third party company (that is not a lawyer), you end up paying double or triple what it costs to submit your fiction for a copyright and you may not see the official copyright statement for many months.
There are ways to preregister your fiction works in progress. This costs more but protects your work in progress as you are writing it. Just follow the pre-registration guidelines on the Copyright.gov website.
A book copyright exists the moment you start writing. Proving that you are the originator or creator of the information is the main point of a copyright. If someone does take your work, if you want to pursue it in court, you must have undeniable proof that the material is your original work. This is done with the use of a copyright.
If your budget is limited and you can't afford to pre-register your work in progress, just remember simply putting a copyright on everything you write covers it by the word of the law. A simple and proper copyright statement looks like the following:
© the date "Copyright by" your name. "All rights reserved."
Place your copyright on a copyright page of your book or on every page of your web site. Make it visible so there is no doubt that your work is protected. Upon the time you begin the writing process, your work is copyrighted by you. However, there are limits to that copyright.
Proving the origination date of your work can be an issue when using the "poor man's book copyright". This next part is very important to secure a date for your copyright that should hold up in court if you follow the example. This is a temporary method and should not be relied upon for the life of you or your work, but will hold up in court if you follow this exact method.
Simply place your original work (the materials you want to copyright) with a cover letter with your copyright clearly marked in a self-addressed stamped envelope. The materials can be a hard copy or electronic copy on a CD-R or DVD-R. Don't use re-writable CDs or DVDs as these can be modified and void your book copyright. Hard copy materials are best.
You should also include a separate statement page in your envelope with specific information to show the copyright is yours, such as your full name, address, date your writing began on this particular piece, your book copyright statement, and a brief description of the work enclosed. Make the statement in memo or professional letter format.
Once all of this is done, seal the envelope with a tamper resistant tape (the kind that people can tell if the tape is torn) and mail the envelope to yourself through a post office other than your own (say, the next town over from yours). This is the only cost involved with copyrighting your work using this method.
Now, for the important part:
Do Not Open the Envelope When it Arrives at Your Address!
The point of mailing this envelope to yourself with a tamper seal around it is to get a postmark on the envelope with a clear date on it. If you do have to go to court, this envelope will not be opened until it is opened in the presence of the court to prove you are the original author and book copyright holder.
You should keep these sealed envelopes protected in a fire proof safe or in a bank safety deposit box that way they won't get lost or burned in a fire and no one will accidentally open it.
The last method of copyrighting your fiction is legal and will uphold your copyright in the event someone takes your work without your strict written permission. Only open one of these envelopes if you need to update your work or use it in court. Remember, the date of your copyright, even if it is different on your work, is the post marked date on the envelope. This is the only downfall to this method of copyright because it starts the time you mail the envelope, thus the reason it is only temporary.
Once your work is complete, I highly recommend getting your book copyrighted by the United States Copyright Office as this is the ultimate form of protection once you are published. As an author, you must have some kind of a copyright in place before submitting anything to a publisher, agent, review website, or any other third party company.
Most traditional publishers automatically copyright your work when they publish your fiction using their third party copyright companies. But if you self-publish your fiction, the copyright responsibilities are entirely up to you. Don't worry! They aren't too difficult and sometimes the self-publishing platforms you use to publish your work will add one in for you and register it with the Library of Congress automatically.
Please contact me with any questions you have with copyrighting your fiction.
END NOTE: Jason Moser and Write and Publish Fiction have no legal affiliation with the Copyright Office, Library of Congress nor provides legal advice. Always contact an attorney if you have any questions or you are unsure of what to do with regards to copyrighting your work. The above methods are merely suggestions and recommendations to help protect your work.