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Do I Need to Copyright My Book?

Authors frequently ask us if they need to copyright their book.

The moment your words are written down, typed, or otherwise recorded, your book is copyrighted.
Copyright protection lasts for the author’s lifetime, plus 70 years.

But do you also need to register your book with the U.S. Copyright Office?

When your book is automatically copyrighted under the U.S. copyright law,  you have certain exclusive rights to your work, such as the right to reproduce, distribute, and display the work publicly.

The advantage of registering your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office over simply having an automatic copyright on your published book is that registration provides additional legal protections and benefits that automatic copyright does not. Here are a few examples:

  1. Legal protection: Copyright registration provides legal protection against someone else publishing or using your work without your permission. This can be important if you ever need to take legal action against someone who is infringing on your copyright.
  2. Evidence in court: If a dispute arises over your copyrighted work, registering it with the Copyright Office provides evidence that you are the original author and that your work was in a fixed form at a certain date. This can be helpful in court if you need to prove that you are the rightful owner of the work.
  3. Ability to Sue for Damages: If someone infringes on your copyright, you may be able to sue for damages and attorney’s fees if your work is registered with the Copyright Office. This can be important if you need to seek compensation for any financial losses caused by infringement.
  4. Public Record: Your book is recorded in the public record as your property and your registration serves as a public notice to others that you own the copyright.
  5. Potential Monetization: If your book becomes popular, registering your copyright could help you monetize your work through licensing or by selling the rights to the work.

How to apply to the U.S. Copyright office to copyright your book:

To register a copyright, you must deposit three things with the U.S. Copyright Office:

  • A completed application form is submitted online or by mail. Online applications have faster processing times and lower fees.
  • A separate filing fee for online applications and paper applications.
  • A nonreturnable copy or copies of your work. A full description of the number and type of copies you must submit, and the methods available for submitting them can be found on the copyright office website.

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