How do you copyright your book? Do you have to register for a copyright? What’s a “poor man’s copyright?” Authors tend to have many questions and misconceptions about copyrights, and understandably so; after all, most of us are writers, not lawyers.
With this in mind, we’d like to present five tips and facts about copyrights.
- Talk to a lawyer that specializes in copyright law. This is the most important tip. If you ever require the best possible advice, talk to a lawyer that specializes in copyright law. No amount of web searching is a substitute for this.
- You’re protected by copyright law whether you register or not. As soon as you put your story into a form that’s visible with or without a device (a handwritten manuscript or a saved file on a computer, for example), it’s protected by copyright law. On the other hand…
- Your book can be copyrighted; your idea can’t. Your idea isn’t protected until it’s put into a visible form. If you tell your idea to a “friend” who writes a story based on it, that person is protected—not you.
- Make sure to fix the date your book was copyrighted. This is why registering your story (with the Library of Congress, for example) is important, even though you’re already protected. If you’re ever plagiarized, proving that your story was first is vital.
- What about mailing the book to yourself and not opening it? This technique of using the post office’s stamp to prove a copyright date (also known as a “poor man’s copyright”) actually has no basis in U.S. law. Could it hurt? No. Will it help? Probably not.
We hope this has answered some of your questions about copyrights! Remember, consult a lawyer for the best, most up-to-date advice.