Obtaining a copyright on an unpublished book will give you exclusive rights to your literary work. This means that only you will have the right to reproduce the work, distribute or sell the work, or perform the work in a public forum. You also have the right to authorise others to do these same things. If you grant others rights, you may receive royalties from their use of your work. Copyrights can be obtained through the US Copyright Office, by either filling out paperwork by hand or submitting the information by computer.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Easy
Write your book, and record it in printed form. Printed form can include handwriting or typing. Once you have your book written, you automatically enjoy the protection of copyright without doing anything else. You become the owner of the work.
Plan to register your book with the U.S. Copyright Office. Even though you have copyright protection immediately after writing a book, there is still the problem of proof. If someone else claims the book to be his, you won't have a way to prove the book is yours.
Register the book with the U.S. Copyright Office. The easiest way to do this is through the new online system. This is called eCO. The filing fee is lower if you register online, and processing of the application is faster. If you wish, you can still use the paper form, Form TX, for literary works. You must request to have this form mailed to you, and it costs more for the fee with this option.
Display copyright notice. Although this is no longer required by law, you can display notice that the work is copyrighted. To do so, you use the copyright symbol, which is a c with a circle around it. This is followed by the year the work was written, with the author's name next to that. The advantage to the display is that this lets others know that the book is copyrighted. Someone cannot then use the excuse that she didn't know they were infringing on a copyrighted work if she tries to copy or use the book without your permission.
File a new copyright registration once you publish the book. If you file for a copyright before the book is published, you will need to file for a new copyright after the book becomes published. You have to pay the fees twice as well.
Tips and warnings
- Copyright protection exists at the time a book is placed in a fixed form. The book could be handwritten, typed, or even put into a word document on the computer.
- You may not be able to get a copyright for your unpublished book if you wrote it for your employer at your job. If the book was written as part of your regular duties, it is considered a work for hire, and is the property of the employer.
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