Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Copyright Your Work

The Pros, The Cons, The Ugly

What is a copyright? In a nutshell, it's where you register your written work with the Library of Congress (Washington DC). You can also register any film, vocal work, and music with them.

Many authors ask "Do I have to register a copyright?" "Aren't I protected without having to register?"

Technically, you have the copyright as soon as you write down the word. It's your intellectual property. You can still publish a short story, novella, and novel without having to register a copyright.

So what's the benefit of registering a copyright? It's absolute proof you own the copyright in a court of law. And that's the best protection you could have.

Just recently I heard about the following scenario: An author used the KDP Select Program on Amazon to promote their book. A pirate site came along, pirated the work and attempted to pass it off as their own. They approached Amazon and asked them to take down the work. Amazon contacted the original author and told them they had to prove they had the true copyright. What's an author to do? If you can prove you have registered your copyright, you've just foiled the pirates and kept your work in good standing.

The Pros:

By registering your written work with the Library of Congress you have absolute legal proof of the copyright that will hold up in a court of law.

The Cons:
It's time consuming, costs money, and is a pain the butt. Why put up the hassle?

Let me stress: it is up to you as the author to decide if you want to register your copyright with the Library of Congress. Do your homework. You know your own situation. Remember your work is copyrighted the minute you put it on paper. You're just registering it – offering legal proof to others that the work is yours.

Recently, I decided to register some work with the Library of Congress. There are 3 options:

1. Paper
2. CO form
3. Electronically

Being kind of Internet savvy, I decided to register electronically. The benefits? It costs only $35.00, easily paid with a credit card, and it will take 3 months to receive a paper copy of proof in the mail. I went for it. Guess what? The electronic filing system is picky. It's best supported by using Internet Explorer. I have Safari. One day it worked, the other, it didn't. If you're a Safari user, be aware it's not the most compatible system and it might work one day and not the next.

You have to register for an account which is free. There are 3 steps, the form, the payment, and then uploading your work.

Take your time filling out the form. Don't rush. If its your first time, give yourself about 20 minutes. Once you're done, then you're directed to pay. This part is easy and goes quickly. You should be redirected back to the copyright area where you are prompted to upload a copy of your work. Fini.

The Ugly

Using the CO form is similar. You fill out the form on your computer (downloaded from the copyright site), sign it, send it off with your payment of $50.00 and copies of your work to the Library of Congress. Turn around time is 6 months.

The TX form is nasty. Download it from the website, fill it out, enclose hardcopies of your work (1 if unpublished, 2 if published) and $65.00. Turn around time is 10 months.

See the benefits of filing electronically?

Does anyone want to share their copyright experiences? Pros? Cons? Ugly? Why do you do it? Or why not? I'd love to hear your thoughts, comments, & feedback.



  1. I copyrighted my first three books because my printing company said I had to. My other four are not. Why? It's expensive, yes, and a hassle. How would I prove copyright? I have my original Word files with the changes/edits, and the files are automatically embedded with the creation date. If you save those well enough, it's copyright proof. Not to mention I have print copies with the date (and the ISBN would show the date validity since it's on record with Books In Print). I can't see bothering with "official" copyright since I have proof. I'm not saying authors shouldn't, but I tend to prefer self-sufficiency. ;-)

  2. Darn, now I can't remember if I copyrighted my TWRP books. I think I did, and I did it the send in your published book way. For Remembering, my nonfiction effort, I copyrighted that myself. It was expensive, but it was also very important to me. My mysteries are registered through my publisher.

    I think it comes down to this. Are you an insurance kind of person or not? I see the copyrighting filing process as another means of insurance. I am a person who feels more comfortable with having all my needs covered by insurance. We've got car insurance, house insurance, flood insurance, life insurance, health insurance, and probably some other insurances I can't call to mind right now. I like the comfort of knowing I'm covered.

    Great post!

  3. Thanks for posting this information. I just read through the papers on how to copyright over the weekend. It sounded daunting. I have a little time to think about it. Appreciate you talking about your experience.

  4. That's very interesting research, Steph. Sounds like a pain to do. I guess if you self publish it would be something an author would want to consider doing though.

  5. Good information, Steph. I liked that you gave the pros and cons. You've sold me, and also sold me on doing it electronically! Thanks.

  6. Interesting and informative post, Steph - my publishers are both Canadian so far. Must look into it.

  7. I've registered all 4 books on-line. Once you've signed on every succeeding registration is easy, and the on-line form is very forgiving (I do have IE).Do not send in your text until it's FINAL, though--they register whatever text they receive. You can pre-register too, but that costs extra. But the best part is this GORGEOUS certificate you can frame & hang on your wall. M. S. Spencer (

  8. Great post, Steph! Some of my books have been copyrighted and others not. It was important to me in the beginning but it is expensive. I do like what Maggie said about looking at copyrights as a form of insurance. Nice you shared what gave you a hassle when doing your own copyrights - good to know.

  9. Thank you for this post. I've been indecisive and feeling like I needed to wait and find out what others have done and why. You have created a form where I've done just that. Now I'll wait until I have the final, then act. And yes, I keep backup files and paper files of all my work.

  10. Steph, thank you. I have one book out, WHEN HEARTS COLLIDE, with one publisher but she didn't ask for copyright, but I have two books coming out with another publisher and this editor wants me to have the books copyrighted. I was debating as in Canada, if you write it, it is automatically copyrighted. But i have a friend, also Canadian is suing someone for pirating his children's book. So now I am rethinking and your post was very informative for me.
    Kendra James /Bev Irwin

  11. Thanks, Steph. I knew about this but keep forgetting to actually get myself in gear. Great reminder!

  12. Thanks everyone for popping in and sharing your thoughts. For me, Maggie put it best when she says think of it like insurance. Let me tell you, a little insurance comes in handy on rainy days, but I want to be clear this is an author's choice. That said...

    While the first time was challenging, I really liked using the electronic filing process and would recommend it to Internet savvy folks are want to get a copyright.