Welcome back to our Tuesday segment, where we’ll be revisiting some of our most popular posts from the last few years. What’s stayed the same? And what’s changed? We’ll be updating you on the facts, and taking a new (and hopefully refreshing) angle on a few timeless classics of Self Publishing Advisor.
[ Originally posted: June 2nd, 2010 ]
Self-publishing affords author the advantage of 100% content and property rights control, which makes copyright protection an important element to consider when choosing your publisher. Bobbie the “Book Doctor” Christmas shares some helpful tips…
Q: When I send my manuscript to readers or agents, should I put the copyright c in a circle on the title page, on every page, or anywhere at all? Should a date be there also?
A: I tend to trust people and therefore do not put a copyright mark on my manuscripts, because the laws of copyright protect us—that is, we own the rights to all our intellectual property the moment we create it. Also, agents and publishers who see a copyright mark may think the person who sent the manuscript is un-knowledgeable or paranoid, because it is not necessary to officially register the copyright until the work is laid out and ready to be published in book form.
If, however, you feel more comfortable marking your manuscripts with a copyright mark, the traditional method for showing a copyright is to use the symbol c in a circle or write the word “Copyright.” Either form should then be followed by the year and your first and last name, all on one line. It should appear on the title page only, and because it is not standard to have a copyright mark on a manuscript, there is no standard for where on the title page to put it. I would probably put it two lines below the name of the author on the title page.
Do not, however, go to the trouble of registering the copyright with the government until the book is about to be published. The content will no doubt change between the time you write it and it gets published, so wait until the book is in its final form before paying to register the copyright.
– by Bobbie Christmas
I’ll be honest with you here:
After decades of working in the self-publishing industry–as an author myself and as an advocate for other authors–copyright is still hard. And messy. And confusing. For Americans at least, it shouldn’t be–the basic principles of copyright were determined (and governed) by the United States Constitution and other international copyright agreements, and have therefore been around a while. For the the most part, after all of my experience, I feel like I can muddle along on a day-to-day basis, repeating the basic definition to myself:
Copyright is a legal right created by the law of a country that grants the creator of an original work exclusive rights for its use and distribution. This is usually only for a limited time. The exclusive rights are not absolute but limited by limitations and exceptions to copyright law, including fair use. A major limitation on copyright is that copyright protects only the original expression of ideas, and not the underlying ideas themselves.
The thing is, despite having a fairly solid understanding of what my own “original work” and “intellectual property” looks like, there are a swarm of details like the one Bobbie addresses above that end up being so complicated I can’t memorize all of the details. And because copyright laws are serious–and I want to respect both my own work as well as the work of others–I want and even need to have full command of the necessary information to honor copyright requirements.
Which is why having the right resources on hand to turn to is important. A good copyright resource, like the Owl at Purdue for grammar and academic writing requirements, will be detailed and thorough, easy to navigate, and always just one click away. It really does take a load off when you’re in a pinch and need to know the answer right now.
When it comes to resources on copyright, I have a few recommendations:
- Poets & Writers has a website dedicated to “Copyright Information for Writers” which strikes just the right balance between simplicity and responsiveness. You have the option of starting a “Topic,” or essentially posting your own query to the P&W community for responses.
- UW Copyright Connection may just be the most successful resource at breaking down the various complexities of copyright for authors looking to answer specific questions. The Connection looks and feels much like a Wiki–only it’s dedicated to authors, so there’s no need to skim through the white noise of irrelevant information to find the answers you need.
- The Book Designer has a series of good posts about copyright, including one titled “Self-Publishing Basics: The Copyright Page” that specifically addresses, well, the copyright page. It addresses Bobbie’s comments above, and then fills in some of the white space around them.
- The Huffington Post is also getting into the copyright game by addressing the self-publishing author’s unique relationship with copyright. Check out the article, “Legal Issues in Self-Publishing: What Authors Need to Know” for more information.
- Wikipedia. It’s less of a cop-out than you think, trust me, especially if you’re looking for the historical background to certain copyright restrictions. Sometimes the why is buried in the how it came about, and knowing the reasons for a restriction often make it easier to live within. Wikipedia also has a page dedicated to Authors Rights.
Thanks for reading. If you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear them. Drop me a line in the comments section below and I’ll respond as quickly as I can. ♠
ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.