Copyright Basics, Part III: How does one secure a copyright and is it required for publication?

One of the most confusing parts of publishing for many authors is copyright laws. To address the common copyright questions I am often asked, I will be writing a copyright basics series every week for the month of September. See the end of the post for links past posts you may missed, and be sure to check back each week for answers to more of your copyright questions.

How to Secure A Copyright

Copyright is automatically secured when a work is created and in a tangible form. No publication, registration, or other action in the Copyright Office is required to secure copyright. There are, however, certain definite advantages to registration.

Among these advantages are the following:

• Registration establishes a public record of the copyright claim.

• Before an infringement suit may be filed in court, registration is necessary for works of U. S. origin.

• If made before or within five years of publication, registration will establish prima facie evidence in court of the validity of the copyright and of the facts stated in the certificate.

• If registration is made within three months after publication of the work or prior to an infringement of the work, statutory damages and attorney’s fees will be available to the copyright owner in court actions. Otherwise, only an award of actual damages and profits is available to the copyright owner.

• Registration allows the owner of the copyright to record the registration with the U. S. Customs Service for protection against the importation of infringing copies.

Registration may be made at any time within the life of the copyright. If a work has been registered in unpublished form, it is not necessary to make another registration when the work becomes published, although the copyright owner may register the published edition, if desired.

An application for copyright registration requires a completed application form, a nonrefundable filing fee, and a nonreturnable deposit. The process can be done via a paper application or online registration.

Is copyright required for publication?

U.S. copyright law protects a literary work once it is placed in a tangible medium such as a manuscript, e-book, or even a word processor file. That means your work is protected by U.S. Copyright law when you write it.  Therefore, when you publish  without taking any extra steps or spending additional money, your book will have the copyright page with the copyright symbol, your name, and the publication year.

Nevertheless, many authors choose to secure their copyright officially with the Copyright Office by registering the book’s copyright.   You can file for this on your own or your publishing company can handle all the details involved.  Contact your self-publishing company for details about this service.

 To learn more about copyright law, visit

Copyright Basics, Part I: What is copyright and who can claim copyright?

Copyright Basics, Part II: What works are and are not protected?

ABOUT JODEE THAYER: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Jodee Thayer works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable customer service reps and publishing consultants; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process in order to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Jodee Thayer can put you on the right path.

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