Imagine that, after countless hours of hard work and dedication, you have finished your book. One day you find out that someone else is selling that book you wrote under a different name without your permission. Someone stole your original work. And now they are profiting from your work. It’s time to protect your book and copyright it.

What does it mean to copyright a book?

When you write and publish a book, you want to protect it. Copyrighting should prevent others from copying or replicating your book. It should prevent others from profiting from your book.

Copyright protection is for protecting your creative work. The goal of copyright is to ensure that your book will remain your original creative work.

Is it necessary to copyright a book?

Although you don’t need to register your book for copyright protection formally, it will help you if you do. Registering your book with the US Copyright Office establishes a publicly searchable record of your book. This registration is required before you can file a copyright infringement suit.

Is my book automatically copyrighted?

If you are a US-based author, your book is automatically protected. But to sue someone who stole your book, you first must file your copyright registration. The good news is that you can file either before or after the copyright infringement occurs. Unfortunately, your lawsuit might have a bigger bite if the registration took place before the infringement.

Copyright registration has two key advantages:

  1. Copyright registration provides a presumption of ownership.
  2. Copyright registration entitles you, if you win the case, to statutory copyright damages.

Can I copyright a book before sending it to the publisher?

If you have been working on your book for a long time and now you want to publish it, you might be asking, “How do I protect my book before publishing?” Copyrighting or registering your book before sending it to your publisher could be a mistake. There is a good chance that your publisher will require multiple rounds of edits. When working with your editor, your book could significantly change. And every time you edit your book, you would have to register new copyright. You see how this could become a problem.

Another reason that registering your book before publishing isn’t the best strategy is that it isn’t your publisher you want to protect yourself from. Your publisher is your partner. A publisher wouldn’t stay in business very long if it had a reputation of infringing on the books they publish.

Is a book title protected by copyright?

Unfortunately, a book title is not copyrightable. Book titles are too short and too generic for copyright protection. That is one of the reasons there are many books with the same title.

How to copyright a book cover?

It’s critical to understand that the book cover is a piece of intellectual property separate from your book. If you create the book cover art with your own original assets (photos, images, etc.) using your original design and layout, you hold the copyright. You can freely reproduce, distribute and create derivatives of the book jacket. If you want to print t-shirts with the book cover, you are free to do so.  Copyright law imbues you (the creator of the work) with those rights.

Who owns the book cover copyright if I use a service to create the art?

But if you use a service to create a book jacket, you don’t have the same rights. The service created the book cover owns the work and is licensed to you.

Who owns the book cover copyright if I hire an artist?

The author will not own the copyright to the book jacket art unless the artist transfers the copyright. To transfer copyright to you from the artist, you need to have a work made for hire agreement. Keep in mind that downloading the art from the artist is not copyright transfer.

What is the duration of book copyright?

According to the US Copyright Office, work created after January 1, 1978, copyright protection lasts for the author’s life plus an additional 70 years.

How to copyright an ebook?

To copyright an ebook in the United States, you can register online or through the mail.

Should I mark my book with ©?

Although it can’t hurt, you are not legally required to mark your book with ©. Having the copyright mark eliminates the possibility of confusion. The copyright mark clearly shows that your book is your copyright.

There are three key ingredients for copyright notice:

  1. The copyright mark © or Copyright note
  2. The year of the first publication of your book.
  3. The name of the author or pen name. If a business writes a book, the name of the corporation should be used.

Are book copyrights transferable?

Generally, authors grant licenses instead of transferring copyrights. But, if you want, you can transfer your book’s copyright to someone.

There are two main types of book licenses:

  • Exclusive book license – If you provide someone exclusive rights to your book, only the licensee has permission to use your work.
  • Non-exclusive book license – With this option, multiple people may use your book simultaneously.

Licenses can be educational, location, editorial, duration or noncommercial. Licenses can be granted based on formats such as web, ebook or print.

Book Copyright Expiration in the USA

For books published after January 1, 1978, copyright protection will last for your lifetime and an additional 70 years beyond.

Does US copyright law protect my book in other countries?

Copyright isn’t international, but many countries have copyright agreements with the United States. These agreements provide reciprocal recognition of copyrights.

Can I copyright a book for free?

Even if you submit the copyright registration without hiring a professional or an attorney, you will still have to pay the US Copyright Office filing fee. You can check the exact copyright registration fee on the US Copyright Office’s website.

What are the fees for copyrighting a book?

There is a small fee for copyright registration. To find out the exact fee, check the US Copyright Office’s website.

How long does it take to copyright a book?

Expect the copyright registration of your book to take about seven months. You might be able to expedite the registration a bit but submitting your application online. Registrations submitted by mail are much slower.

How to copyright the images in a book?

Generally, the artist who creates boo illustrations owns the work. The same is true for images and photos.

If you hire someone to create images for your book, you can transfer ownership to you. To transfer copyright to you from the artist, you need to have a work made for hire agreement.

This article is not intended to provide legal advice. Always consult an attorney for legal advice for your particular situation.

What do I do if someone steals or uses my book without my permission?

One day you may find that a website offers free copies of your book. Unfortunately, stealing and reposting books on unauthorized websites is a lucrative business today. Some thieves may steal your book, change the title and sell it for a profit. Many legitimate online book-selling platforms have an ongoing problem with unauthorized content. Stolen books may be sold thousands of times online before the author even realizes the copyright infringements.

If you find out the someone uses your book without your permission, you can send a “take-down notice.” Sadly, most websites that post unauthorized content have little regard to copyright laws.  Even if you can get one site to remove your book, you may soon find another doing the same.

It is upsetting to see your work stolen. Sometimes the best strategy is to continue to work on new content and to build a loyal following. Your loyal readers will be eager to pay for your book.