So you’ve finished your book. You’re ready to begin to see who is ready to potentially publish it. You also want to make sure that no one will be able to steal your ideas and create their own book from your own creativity. This is where the copyright for a book comes into play.
There are two basic forms of copyright that are available for creative works: implied and public. An implied copyright is available to you the instant you have finished writing each word of your manuscript. Your creativity is automatically under an implied copyright as you work on your book. As long as you have dated proof as to when you created your story, then the creativity behind that story will be yours to keep.
For authors who want a formalized copyright to protect themselves even more from a legal standpoint, a public copyright granted by the US Copyright Office is the best option. This copyright will create a public record of your creativity, giving you more opportunities to pursue litigation should someone try to steal your ideas while you’re submitting your novel.
What Will a Copyright Cover?
Both copyrights will cover your personal claim to the book that you’ve created. Implied copyrights can even be used to pursue legal claims when there is a documentation trail to prove when, where, and how the book was written. A public copyright will simply strengthen that claim.
All aspects of the book can be covered through the copyright process. This includes and in-body text, illustrations, plot points, and other creative ideas that have been incorporated into the story. It may also include fictional places, worlds, and circumstances that you decide to put into your book. Specific character names and attributes may also be included.
What Will a Copyright Fail to Cover?
Copyrights allow for a process that can be referred to as “synchronous creativity.” This means at the same time you were coming up with your great book, someone else was coming up with a similar idea. If both parties involved can prove the details of their creative works, then the copyright will be granted individually to the unique parts of each story, but potentially as a group copyright to the similar elements.
Copyrights cannot cover items that are considered to be public domain. You are permitted to copyright a story which contains public domain text, images, or other forms of content if you have added to that content. You cannot copyright the items that you pulled out of the public domain. Other writers can use the same public domain items that you did.
How Much Does a Copyright Cost?
An implied copyright costs nothing. It is automatically assigned based on the work that you do. The only requirement is that you must, in some way, be able to prove that you were working on your book when you say you were working on your book. Sending an email with a portion of your manuscript would be an example of this proof.
A public copyright that is issued by the US Copyright Office may cost as little as $35. For individuals filling out their own paperwork, the maximum cost is usually $55 for a standard copyright application. It generally takes 6-8 months for a standard copyright to be issued for a creative work like a book.
You may also qualify for an expedited copyright if you meet specific circumstances within the application. This adds a substantial fee to the process, between $250-$500 in some instances and the added fees are non-refundable. In return, however, you can receive your copyright in a few weeks or even a few days, depending on the workload of the office.
Is a Copyright for a Book Necessary?
If you feel the need to protect your book with a public copyright, then you should do so. Otherwise you will be worried about the overall protection of your creative rights and that can be a stressful experience.
For authors who are self-publishing or may be circulating a novel they spent years working on to literary agents or publishers, having formal copyright protection can help to make sure nothing happens to that creative work. Should copying take place, you will have a strong case to bring to court.
If the book is more informal, designed as a marketing effort, or you are confident in your implied copyright documentation, then the cost of a copyright issued by the US Copyright Office may not be right for you.
This is a choice that only you can make. Decide which is best for you and then take action to protect your creative work.