Copyrights are always something in the forefront of our collective indie publisher minds. Should we or shouldn’t we, do we have to take special steps? This overview will focus on U.S. copyright laws but I would imagine that they are similar in other countries. Toward the end of this post we’ll look at a possible copyright infringement that hits a little too close to home.
Under current law, a copyright exists as soon as an original work is fixed in a tangible medium of expression. You own the copyright to your work as soon as you write it down or save it on your computer. More information can be found here.
How do you meet the test of “original work?” As one judge told it, “some spark of creativity…” meets that need. The important thing to remember for Indie writers is that copyright protection applies to both published and unpublished work.
There is a misconception that you have to mail yourself a hard copy of your work in order for it to be copyrighted. Also, as of March 1, 1989, it is no longer necessary to use a © mark on your work, however, when publishing, you will typically include it as part of the front matter of the book.
In order to have a proper copyright notification, it should have three things: the copyright symbol © or the word copyright, the name of the author and the year.
“So, do I have to register my copyright with the Library of Congress?”
The best answer is no, unless …
I recently went through this process. An “A” list author recently published a novel with a very similar cover to my novel, The Card. My novel has original artwork—a hand drawn baseball, field and stadium. I know this because my wife did the artwork. I worked with a graphic designer to put together the cover with the original artwork. The Card had spent months at #1 on the Kindle Bestseller list in the baseball category prior to the new book hitting the shelves.
When I contacted the appropriate people for possible infringement, I was asked if my work is copyrighted. Of course! I responded and showed them the little © symbol. Ah, but this is where the legality of the copyright breaks down.
While my work is inherently copyrighted, I cannot bring forward an infringement suit without having it copyrighted with the Library of Congress. I paid my $35 to “officially” copyright the work and sent two copies of the eBook. They were very happy to cash my check and then informed me that I would need to provide them with the “Best” version of the book for the Library of Congress. In other words, if I have a hard copy edition, then that would top the eBook version.
I’ve sent off the two copies of the hard copy and now I can proceed with the infringement case if I want. If it doesn’t go anywhere, at least I can say my book in now in the Library of Congress!
What’s your opinion. Do you see a similarity in the cover of the two novels?