Copyrights – What they are and the Do’s and don’ts
Self-Publishing

Copyrights – What they are and the Do’s and Don’ts

A while back I did a blog on plagiarism and the value of a copyrighting your work.  As pertaining to writing, the copyright is intended to cover the intellectual property of the author and protect their right to distribute their work.  Each country is different, but in the United States, the cost is $35 and becomes instantaneous the minute the work is approved.  The copyright lasts the life of the writer and another seventy five years afterwards before reverting to the public domain.

Some things to note about copyrights.  As stated before, the copyright is instantaneous once approved and will last a long time.  It does provide protection against plagiarism for the writer, where he or she markets their work.  Authors should be aware of some caveats that come with the copyright.

  1. First off, you cannot copyright an idea. Another can read an original piece and then form an authentic piece of work. That is not plagiarism.
  2. The author cannot copyright a Title.
  3. There is a gray area in regards to works being used as teaching materials. In other words, some limited copying of works can be done if the person can justify that he or she is using the work specifically for educational purposes.
  4. A copyright is only a copyright once approved by your government’s agency, in my case Copyright.gov, the branch in the United States. There is no such thing as a poor man’s copyright, when the author uses a watermark as proof of copyright.

However, the copyright will protect the writer in the case of a book store selling their book or another author copying the work.  Once the copyright has been approved, it can be looked at as a prerequisite for filing suit in the event that an infringement is found.  The writer can send a DMCA notice to the violator to cease and desist.

What to do for your copyright:

  1. Make sure that your work is original. You might think it would be obvious, but when you’re writing at all hours of the night like yours truly, the mind will play tricks on you.  What I suggest to people when writing, is use a plagiarism tracker like Copyscrape to make sure you did not accidentally quote a whole section from another writer.  Think of this like a college term paper and you should be fine.
  2. Make sure that you are only using the draft of the work to be published. Don’t include other works in it.  More on this in a minute.
  3. Remember it’s only one document at a time.
  4. Be patient. It can take up to ten months to get a copyright.  Remember you can still publish at this time.  It’s up to you.  I tend to file the copyright first and then publish the work immediately after, as I have not had an issue yet with the copyright, but I know other writers who will not publish until they get the letter.  I leave that up to you, my fellow writer.

What not to do for your copyright:

  1. Do not include any other writer’s work. Don’t cheat it’s not worth it. In this day and age plagiarism is caught almost immediately.  See the earlier sentence about treating your novel like a college term paper.
  2. Do not register multiple works under one application, it will be rejected. Just include the draft of the novel.  Be careful if you are pulling this from a draft being submitted to KDP for publishing.  If you are including the first chapter of another story, your copyright will be rejected.
  3. Make sure the submitter is the writer or an authorized third party.
  4. If you have a contributing writer, remember to add the individual. Remember this is an intellectual property.

What happens if my copyright is rejected?

  1. You can resubmit again under the regular fee schedule. The author does have the right to refute the copyright’s office ruling under the original application, but that will cost the writer an additional $250.
  2. Call the office or email them to determine why the rejection happened. Even if it seems obvious, I will still do this because you should know the exact reasons. Mistakes happen but the call can help avoid additional frustrations especially if the letter seems too vague.

Final thought…

The copyright protects the indie writer.  Nora Roberts found this out the hard way when her work was plagiarized back in the 1990’s.  It also protected JK Rowlings when her work was being infringed on by a fan.  It’s still the best $35 investment you will ever make to protect your work.

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