Ask the Book Doctor: Are Book Titles Protected by Copyright?

Q: I’m considering a title for my novel that is already being used on another book. Can titles by copyrighted?

A: Titles are not eligible for protection under current copyright law (a search on Amazon will often reveal many different books all sharing the same title).  However, titles can be trademarked if used to cover more than one item in a series, such as a cluster of seminars based on a book of the same name. Or try self-publishing a book with “Harry Potter” in the title and get ready to hear from some lawyers.

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While you can legally use a  book title that has been used by someone else, a better idea is to change the title and make it different, so people who search for your title will find only your book, and not others.  This is your chance to come up with something memorable and unique, and you’d be a muggle if you didn’t take advantage of that opportunity.

Bobbie Christmas, book doctor, author of Write In Style (Union Square Publishing), and owner of Zebra Communications, will answer your questions, too. Send them to Bobbie@zebraeditor.com. Read more “Ask the Book Doctor” questions and answers at www.zebraeditor.com. This article republished from the Self Publishing Advisor Archives.

Ask the Doctor: Copyright and Book Titles

Q: A title I’m considering for my novel is [title removed]. Amazon.com says that title is already in use. Are titles copyrighted?

A: As I understand the law, titles are not eligible for copyrights the way longer works are; however, titles can be trademarked if used to cover more than one item in a series, such as a cluster of seminars based on a book of the same name.

Although you could probably legally use a title that has been used by someone else, consider it an opportunity to change the title and make it different, so people who search your title will find only your book, and not others. It’s your chance to come up with a memorable, unique title with a play on words, alliteration, or rhyme.

Bobbie Christmas, book doctor, author of Write In Style (Union Square Publishing), and owner of Zebra Communications, will answer your questions, too. Send them to Bobbie@zebraeditor.com. Read more “Ask the Book Doctor” questions and answers at www.zebraeditor.com