Updated: Jun 2
As a new self published author, there are so many things I did not know and so many things I did not know, I did not know. When I announced to my family that I was finally moving forward with writing a book, a children's book at that, one of my brothers fortunately asked, "Oh, are you going to copyright the book?" And I replied dumbfounded, "Huh? I don't know if I have to." I had my next research assignment: Copyrights!
I returned home from my family gathering and immediately started researching copyrights. I learned through multiple sources that while a copyright is not necessary per se, it is very useful and quite simple to get. Continue on to learn more about what I learned on my journey to copyrighting my first book, Andrew Learns about Actors.
What does a copyright do for me and my book?
In legal terms, "copyright, a form of intellectual property law, protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture." - copyright.gov
In layperson's terms, a copyright protects my book manuscript (i.e. the words I have written) from use and distribution without my permission.
Now, it's true that my book does not require a copyright to have protection from unauthorized use and distribution. In fact, my manuscript/book is protected as soon as my words become a digital or paper file.
However, registering a copyright for my book gave me the greatest protection over my original work possible. And my hard work deserves the best! 😉
How do you get a copyright?
The U.S. Copyright Office is the only office that can accept applications and issue registrations. Their website is: www.copyright.gov.
How much is a copyright?
In general, $45. 🤷🏽♀️ Other rates or fees may apply depending on what original work I am attempting to copyright.
How long does a copyright last on my book?
As a general rule, for works created after January 1, 1978, copyright protection lasts for the life of the author plus an additional 70 years. Also, as a general rule, I do not have to renew my copyright. Of course ☝🏽 there are exceptions to both rules.
Do I have to reference or list the copyright in my book?
Yes. The copyright page typically appears at the very front of a book, like the first page behind the cover. The copyright page usually includes, more or less, the copyright "notice" language, the year of publication, the name of the owner of the copyright, and the ISBN (remember those? Check out blog post "ISBNs and Barcodes! Oh my!" for a refresher).
I picked up several books that I had laying around so I could garner real-life examples on a copyright page. I discovered there are different versions and layouts for the copyright page, so I chose a version and layout that worked for me and my purpose.
Do I need a lawyer for this?
No, I did not need a lawyer to copyright my book. (And I am not just saying that because I am a lawyer👩🏽🎓 😆). If I chose to use a lawyer (who specializes in intellectual property), that would be great. If I chose to go at it alone, that was fine too.
All of these answers and more are available clearly on the copyright site, www.copyright.gov.
In short, I learned that I should definitely copyright my book because there was really no reason not to, not even the $45!
**Copyright is not the same as publishing. You can copyright published and unpublished work.