What is a legal copyright? With pirate ebook sites popping up like mushrooms every day, it's in every author's best interest to find out exactly how they can protect the words they've written, in case they need to take legal action. In the United States, authors have to take certain steps to ensure that they own the rights to their work, in the eyes of the law. Author's forums are full of advice, but should you trust your online friend's opinion on how to protect your legacy? Here's the scoop on the law, as of 2017.
Do You Have to Register a Copyright?
According to the U.S. Copyright Office, copyright attaches to the work automatically at the time of its creation. You write it, the copyright belongs to you. However, if you need to file a lawsuit against someone infringing on your copyright, registration is required to guarantee certain federal protections. The best idea is to register your copyright within three months of your initial publication.
Copyright registration gives you certain addtional protections should you decide to sue infringers, stop their infringing, and to recover damages. It also gives you the right to recover statutory damages, even if the infringer didn't make money by their act, and to recover attorney fees from any resulting lawsuits. And to be clear you do not have to register your copyright to sue for infringement.
Can I Copyright Books Meant to be Given Away?
In this age of series books, it's common for authors to create a shorter work as a teaser book to be given away free. Just like books meant to be sold for profit, the copyright on these books attaches at publication. It's the publishing that creates the copyright, not the profit. You can publish a book through a third party or self-publish through any of the dozens of online publishing companies. The method of publication doesn't matter.
How Do I Register a Copyright?
Copyrighting a book may seem like an involved and expensive process, but it's actually very simple. Go to the U.S. Copyright Office website and fill out a simple form. In most cases, copyright registration costs are minimal, and you don't need an attorney. They even have a step-by-step tutorial to walk you through the process.
When it comes to copyright law, don't trust in myths and rumors. You can find the answer to any other questions you have on the U.S. Copyright Office website.
Keep the Faith and May the Force be with You!