Whenever you write something on paper or typed on a computer, it is copyrighted / protected under copyright law.
If someone steals your work and presents it as his own, the burden of proof falls on you to show that you created it first and that you own the copyright – which can be difficult. For better protection, consider to officially register your work for approx. $45 per book manuscript with the US Copyright Office. So, if anyone steals your manuscript, you will not only have proof of copyright ownership, but you are also able to sue for Statutory Damages and attorney fees.
It is not required for you as an author to register your work or even provide a notice. But… there are reasons to protect yourself and what you created. Copyright means the sole right to produce or reproduce a work in any form. And in most countries, a work – such as literature, music or software – is automatically protected as soon as it is created. Excluded are ideas, titles, names, facts, lists, and short phrases.
However, proving your claim can be a very difficult matter without proper evidence. Often it boils down to a case of “their word against yours”.
Without proper protection, work that you have created, could end up making money for someone else. Photographer Jeremy Nicholl wrote: “Some time ago I began registering all my photographs with the US Copyright Office. Like all photographers I have witnessed a massive increase of theft of my work in recent years. And, like others I have found it difficult, if not impossible, to get reasonable compensation for these infringements, especially if the infringer is in a foreign country.”
“But one country, the US, provides very hefty penalties for copyright theft – so long as the work has been registered prior to the infringement in question. So what would happen if I, a foreigner, registered my work and subsequently found it used without permission in the US? Would US copyright law really provide me with the same protection that it does the country’s own citizens? Last week I got my answer… Read Jeremy Nicholl’s advice here.
US Court Rules:
- If you have registered your work before infringement, you can collect Statutory Damages plus attorney fees.
- If you registered after infringement, but before filing suit, you can only sue for Actual Damages – which you have to demonstrate.
Where to Register?
online to the Copyright Office, Canadian Intellectual Property Office Web site http://www.cipo.ic.gc.ca (fee Can $50)
online to the U.S. Copyright Office, via the Library of Congress
http://www.copyright.gov (fee US $ 45)
online UK Copyright Service
http://www.copyrightservice.co.uk (online registration are £39.00 for 5 years or £64.00 for 10 years per work.)
An attorney is not necessary at all, to register your manuscript – or several, in the case of a blog or a series of short stories, which you can register as one work. Try to register images also as a series / one file. Register on-line (which is cheaper) or by snail mail.
Copyright registrations become effective the day on which application and payment are received at the office, but it may take several months (currently between 8 – 13 months!) until you receive the certificate.
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To learn more about professional book marketing and publishing,
please read also “Book Marketing on a Shoestring”
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