So you’ve completed your book and you now have questions as to whether or not to copyright your work.
Unlike patents or trademarks which protect inventions or discoveries, copyrights protect the original work of an author.
First off, what does copyright actually mean?
Copyright is a way to protect your work which is provided by the United States of America. An author who creates an original work can include literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. The work can be either published or unpublished. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works. It also gives the owner of the copyright the rights of the following:
• The author/creator can reproduce and copy the work
• The author/creator can prepare a derivative of the work
• The author/creator can distribute copies of their work to the public either through sales of that product or by transferring the ownership, or also by renting and leasing the product or item.
• The author/creator can display or perform their work in a public forum, which includes literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural
works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work
• The author/creator can perform their work in a public forum which can be by a digital audio transmission
A frequent question is what do I have to do to ensure my work is copyrighted? From the moment you create our work in a tangible form that is perceptible with the aid of a machine or device, your work is copyright protected.
Then if that is the case, why go through the process of getting your work copyrighted? There is one major reason–being able to sue an individual for copyright infringement. Registered works may be eligible for statutory damages and attorney’s fees in successful litigation. If you register your work within five years of publication, it is considered prima facie (appears to be self-evident from the facts) evidence in a court of law. Another benefit to having your work copyrighted through the copyright office is that registration establishes a public record of the copyright.
Lastly, there is a huge fallacy swimming among authors that involves sending your work to yourself via the United States Post Office. Mailing a copy of your work to yourself doesn’t ensure it being copyrighted. Doing this does not substitute the registration of your work.
The bottom line: You don’t have to copyright your work with the U.S. Copyright Office, but it helps you if you ever have a legal matter arise. Many authors have spent years working on their books. A simple act of copyrighting your work with the United States Government is a small price to pay to ensure you have every possible right to protect your work against copyright infringement.