Should I Copyright My Book Idea?
Do You Need a Copyright for Your First Novel?
Do I need to get a copyright for my novel before sending it out to publishers? This is a very common question for first time and beginning writers and novelists alike, and one that is asked by virtually every early writer. This was a question I had when nearing the end of my first novel manuscript. Large works of art, especially something like a novel, isn't just a project that you spent hundreds of hours on but it's a piece of your heart, mind, passion, and soul. The worst fear of an artist is to have such a large and intimate work stolen and credited to the very person who stole it. Can a copyright protect you from this fear? Do you need a copyright? Speaking only to the copyright of writing that you create, the answer is no, you don't need to apply and pay for a copyright to get protection, because as of 1989, you automatically have protection from the moment the words leave your mind and are written on the page. I'll explain in more detail in this hub about your automatic copyright protections.
What is Automatic Copyright Protection?
Copyright law when applied to novels or original creative written works protects "works of authorship." This covers a wide variety of literary works, including short stories, poetry, non-fiction articles, newspaper articles, brochures, catalogues, novels, screenplays, plays, and even databases. This just barely scratches the surface of what the copyright can cover and protect.
Copyright does NOT cover facts, words, names, symbols (though some symbols can be trademarked), and ideas. That last point is extremely important, and is something that all authors need to understand, especially if they're going around talking about their idea for a new novel or story with other people:
Copyright DOES NOT PROTECT IDEAS!
Sorry for the shouting, but that is an extremely important piece of information. Copyright doesn't protect ideas or outlines. When you write the story down on paper, at that very moment those words are protected by you under copyright unless you give that copyright away to someone else.
But ideas aren't. If you blab your idea and someone else takes it and actually writes the story, that story is 100% theirs. But ever since 1989, the very moment you write words on a page, those words belong to YOU and copyright protection is extended to you without having to apply for it or pay for it.
More Information About Copyright Protection
Many authors believe that you have to register your work to get copyright protection. Prior to 1989 this was actually true but any work written after March 1, 1989, is automatically protected. The author owns the copyright rights to any creative written work unless he or she has already given/sold the rights to another person (this is common with ghost writing and Internet content writing).
As long as the characters are original and not based on someone else's work, you own the copyright. This means that as a practical thing, you can write a novel or screenplay and then add the "Copyright © (year) by Jane Doe. All Rights Reserved." You can add that to your works without registering it, and you should since this works as a natural deterrent. This notice also helps you legally if a case comes out, so the person who stole your work can't claim "innocent infringement."
Innocent infringement won't get the offending thieves off the hook, but it can drastically reduce the amount of damages you can collect from how they profited off of your work.
How long does copyright protection last? This varies from nation to nation, but generally the length of copyright is the entire lifetime of the creator, plus an additional 50 years after death. So if you write a brilliant masterwork, don't worry, you'll collect royalties throughout your entire lifetime.
You can still register with the Library of Congress for an "official" registration of copyright, but you'll have to pay it and it won't offer one bit more of protection. In addition to that, you'll have to pay a filing fee. There's no reason for it, so don't do it.
Michael Moore Questioned on Copyright Laws
It's 2 Hours - But It's All You Want to Know on Copyright
In Copyright Conclusion
The fear of having your work stolen isn't one that you should join in on. Your work won't be stolen. One reason is that because it's so easy for an afflicted author to get compensated and take a publishing house down. The other part of it is that if the publishers like the book that much, it's far more profitable to simply sign you to a contract and a contract for all your future work.
Writing styles are very distinctive. Why in the world would a publishing company hire another person to take credit for your story, with that person not being able to replicate it, and the fear of getting caught, the bad publicity, etc? It doesn't make sense. If the company and/or agent likes it that much, they'll get it straight from you.
The only time you need to register for the copyright is once it's accepted for publication. Beyond that, enjoy the 1989 decision that gives authors the full amount of protection that they deserve for their creative work. Once it goes from your mind to the page, it is copyrighted.
So write and create without fear, and share what you have with the world!
Copyright Information Links
- Master Dayton Keyword Academy Review
Great and in depth review of The Keyword Academy program.
- Author Sues Matrix Writers over Copyright Infringement
Was "The Matrix" trilogy plagirized?
- National Writer's Union
The home page to the National Writer's Union.
- Basic Copyright Concepts for Writers
Basic Copyright Concepts for Writers, a great article on some of the basic concepts of "copyright" that writers should know about.
- Copyright Info from Writing Guild
This is a solid article from the guild of science fiction and fantasy writers regarding copyright.
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