Copyright Your Book
This explanation is intended to provide a basic understanding of
copyright law. It is not a substitute for the advice of an
intellectual property attorney if you believe you may have
serious legal interests to protect.
What does a copyright cover?
It does not protect an “intangible” such as an idea; it
only protects works that are tangible and written or recorded in
some way. Oddly
enough, it also does not extend to titles, which is why you may
have noticed over the years that many authors and artists have
used identical titles for their work.
Methods for Registering a Copyright
U.S. Copyright Office
There are several ways to register your copyright.
The first is to do it “by the book” and register with the
Library of Congress’ U. S. Copyright Office in Washington, D. C.
or via their website:
There is a fee for registering, and you may have a
particular legal reason for going this route, but there are less
expensive (as in free) ways to do this.
To understand how “free” is possible, be aware that the United
States is a signatory to the Berne Convention for the Protection
of Literary and Artistic Works, as are most other countries.
Because of this, your work is protected from the moment
you create it in a format that is “perceptible either directly
or with the aid of a machine or device.”
What that means is that you automatically own the
copyright to any original work you create—as long as you commit
it to readable form.
As you see, because of the Berne Convention, it is not legally
necessary to officially file with the government.
If you choose to go the extra mile and register your
copyright, however, be sure to keep all forms and receipts,
whether your submission is physical or electronic.
The bottom line here is that, as codified by the Berne
Convention, copyright is effective the moment your book is
created. Nothing needs
to be filed; you simply need to follow one of the following
To announce to the world that you own the copyright to your
work, simply use the copyright symbol (©) preceded by the year.
(See the example below.) This self-proclamation, vis-a-vis the
aforementioned Berne Convention agreement, will protect you,
should there be a legal ownership dispute in the future.
U.S. Postal Service:
If you feel you want to “buy more insurance,” a
time-tested way of registering your copyright is to mail a copy
of the manuscript to yourself via the U. S. Postal Service.
Use certified mail, return receipt requested.
This is known as “the poor man's copyright,” but it is
Naturally, if you go to all this trouble, you will want to save
all the paperwork, as the postmark and signed return receipt
will be evidence of the date of your copyright.
Do not open your package once you receive it, however, or
the process will be invalid.
Show your manuscript to your friends and family. By
showing it, you will have witnesses that you can call upon
should you need anyone to verify the date of your copyright.
Publish your work with
your copyright clearly visible.
Example of Wording
Copyright © 2014 John Doe.
All rights reserved.
Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976 and all
subsequent amendments, no part of this publication may be
reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any
means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the
prior written permission of the publisher.
Denver Book Editor | Boulder Book Editor