It is not required for an author to register your work or even provide a notice. But… there are reasons to protect yourself and what you created. Copyright means the sole right to produce or reproduce a work in any form. And in most countries, a work – such as literature, music or software – is automatically protected as soon as it is created. Excluded are ideas, titles, names, facts and short phrases.
On the other side: proving your claim can be a very difficult matter without proper evidence. Often it boils down to a case of “their word against yours”. Without proper protection, work that you have created, could end up making money for someone else.
Whenever you write something on paper or typed on a computer, it is copyrighted and protected under U.S. copyright law. If someone steals your work and presents it as his own, the burden of proof falls on you to show that you created it first and that you own the copyright – which can be difficult. For better protection, consider to officially register your work for approx. $45 per manuscript with the US Copyright Office. So, if anyone steals your manuscript, you will not only have proof of copyright ownership, but you are also able to sue for Statutory Damages and attorney fees.
Claims in US Courts:
- If you have registered your work before infringement, you can collect Statutory Damages plus attorney fees.
- If you registered after infringement, but before filing suit, you can only sue for Actual Damages – which you have to demonstrate.
Necessary Content of Copyright Notices in Your Book:
- The symbol © or the word “Copyright”
- The year of first publication of the work
- The name of the owner or creator
Where to Register?
online to the Copyright Office, Canadian Intellectual Property Office Web site
http://www.cipo.ic.gc.ca (fee Can $50)
online to the U.S. Copyright Office, via the Library of Congress
http://www.copyright.gov (fee US $ 35)
online UK Copyright Service
http://www.copyrightservice.co.uk (online registration are £39.00 for 5 years or £64.00 for 10 years per work.)
An attorney is not necessary at all, to register your manuscript. You can register on-line (which is cheaper) or by snail mail. Copyright registrations become effective the day on which application and payment are received at the office, but it may take months until you receive the certificate.
Being on the Copyright Register also helps with finding you as the owner when permission to use a work is sought. This can be very lucrative for the owner of registered copyright because they can easily be found to license their work and can charge fees/royalties for its use. Even for succession planning it is very important to have copyright registered, as it provides the owner with an easily transferable and valuable asset.
Check out this blog post, which gives lots of tips what to do in case copyright infringements happen. The blogger talks about a photograph, that was unlawfully used, but for your blogs or books, the steps are the same:
More regulatory sources for USA, Canada and the UK:
Canadian Guide to Copyright
UK Copyright Law
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