When I started working on my poetry book this week, copyright issues began to creep into my mind. Should I get a registered copyright for my poetry book? How long would it take? Could I still publish my book without worrying about a copyright? Then I spent awhile researching my own questions. Most of these points refer directly to self-publishing a book, but may also be applicable to other media. Here's what I found out:
* If you intend to publish an original work, generally there is a copyright on it as soon as it is written. The one thing that an author must remember is that the idea is not copyrighted, but only how you express the idea. A great example of this is a how-to book. Hundreds of authors can write a book on how to do something, but the words used to describe the steps are the only part that is solely the property of the author.
* The biggest benefit of having a registered copyright is to have a legal holding on a specific work. Registered copyrights come in handy if the written work is being contested in court to determine who really owns the copyright.
* The proper format for attaching a copyright to a written work is to have either the word "copyright" or the copyright symbol: ©. After that, write the date when the work was copyrighted or completed. Next comes the name of the person (or business) that holds the copyright. For example, the copyright for my book would look like this: © 2009 Terri Deno.
* Adding additional words to the copyright notice is not necessary, but can be helpful to let others know that you don't want them reproducing or reprinting your work. Copyrights can also read like this: © 2009 Terri Deno. All rights reserved. OR © 2009 Terri Deno. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without express written permission.
* The Poor Man's Copyright (mailing a copy of the completed work to yourself to record the date) does not hold up in U.S. courts, but is still a valid method in many other countries.
* The copyright notice for a book is usually located after the title page.
* Many on-demand or self-publishing companies do not automatically include the copyright page in a document unless it is part of an overall design package. Most of the time, the author must provide this page in the final manuscript.
These were some of the most helpful points that I learned over the past few days. I may have to return to the topic of copyrights if I move into a new medium or decide to publish my work in another way.
For more information about registering for a copyright, check out the U.S. Copyright Office or have a look at the forms for copyrighting literary works (the office prefers online submissions).