Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Incredible, Edible Copyright

Ah, copyrights.  Something that a legitimate publisher would normally file for their author.

And the subject that has the most BS on the internet in terms of enticing naive writers to part with their limited funds.

WARNING:  The following is my opinion and DOES NOT IN ANYWAY CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE.  If you need a copyright attorney, I recommend Elaine English or contact Authors Guild.

FALLACY #1:  You have to register with the U.S. Copyright Office in order to claim a copyright.

ANSWER:  No, you don't.  You hold the copyright to a work from the moment the work is in a recorded, readable form.  HOWEVER, to avail yourself of certain legal protections, it's a good idea.  For example, if someone copies J.K. Rowling's first book, but calls it Henry Porter and the Magick Pebble, Rowling's copyright registration stands as prima facie proof that she created the work.*

FALLACY #2:  You can mail your manuscript to yourself to prove the date of its creation.

ANSWER:  Absolutely false!  There's nothing in U.S. Copyright law that states this method protects the creator of the work.  Seriously, folks, save your money.

FALLACY #3:  It's really expensive to file for a copyright.

ANSWER:  It's expensive only if you go through a third party who charges you for filing paperwork you can freakin' file yourself.

U. S. Copyright Office now allows you to file your registration electronically for only $35.  If you do file electronically, check the list of acceptable formats.  If you have only an e-edition of your book, in addition to the electronic copy you file with your application, you will need to send a CD-ROM copy to the Library of Congress.  Otherwise, send the paper copy.  Also the Copyright Office says to send the CD-ROM via box, instead of an envelope, to protect the CD from damage.

Seriously, folks, why pay some bozo  couple of hundred dollars when you can do it yourself for the registration fee, a box, and some postage?

* Prima facie is Latin for 'on the face of.'  It means the truth is assumed unless the opposite party can prove the facts otherwise.


  1. As usual...great information. Thanks!

  2. I tried to get copyrights the other day...from the copyright gov place...I was trying to go ahead and copyright three books and I put in the info for all of them. It only charged me for one ($35), but there was place for me to upload up to 5 files.

    I went ahead and uploaded 3 files with that...I guess when I get the paperwork we'll see if it took all the files or just the one.

  3. Hmmm... That's weird, Tess. I hope it doesn't consider all three files part of one book. I must investigate some more.