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How to Copyright a Book – As a former literary agent turned author consultant, I get a lot of questions about book copyright. What is copyright? Do I need to copyright my book before I try to get a literary agent? What are the copyright laws for books that I need to know about? How much does it cost to copyright a book? And, how do I copyright my book?

You’ll find answers to these questions, and more, below; however, this article is not a substitute for legal advice from a literary agent attorney regarding your unique situation.

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FAQ – How to Copyright a Book

Scroll below now for answers to the 15 most frequently
asked questions about how to copyright a book.

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What is book copyright?
How to Copyright a Book FAQ

Book copyright is a form of intellectual property law based on the U.S. Constitution. Book copyright is granted for original works of authorship, and it protects both published and unpublished works.

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Do I need book copyright protection?
How to Copyright a Book FAQ

Technically, your book is under copyright protection the moment it is created and “fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.” However, many authors choose to register their books with the copyright office anyway for additional protection (proof that the book is indeed their creation). For example, if you need to bring a lawsuit for the infringement of your book. Although you might have heard about the option of sending a copy of your own book to yourself (known as the “poor man’s copyright”), there is no provision in the copyright law for that and, according to the copyright office in Washington, D.C., it is not a substitute for registration.

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Will my U.S. book copyright protect me in other countries?
How to Copyright a Book FAQ

Although the U.S. has copyright relations with most countries, meaning your book will be protected from copyright infringement in most countries, some countries follow different rules. Sometimes, they don’t have any rules. So do what you can to protect your work by filing at the copyright office for your book.

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Can I copyright a book title?
How to Copyright a Book FAQ

Copyright doesn’t protect book titles. If you think about, you’ve probably seen several books online using the same book title. It happens. A lot. If you want or need to protect your book title, that’s something you might be able to do through trademark protection via the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

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How do I protect my book idea?
How to Copyright a Book FAQ

Copyright doesn’t protect book ideas. If you’re concerned about protecting your book idea when submitting your work to literary agents and other publishing professionals, read this related article about NDAs or nondisclosure agreements.

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Can a minor copyright a book?
How to Copyright a Book FAQ

Yes, but check the laws in your state to see if there are any special requirements. Some states have different rules.

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Can I use a pseudonym?
How to Copyright a Book FAQ

Yes, you can use a fictitious name. There’s no legal requirement that an author be identified by their real name on the application form.

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Will my personal information be made public?
How to Copyright a Book FAQ

Yes. When you register your book copyright, you are making a public record. The information you provide on your application will be available to the public.

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How long does the registration process take?
How to Copyright a Book FAQ

If you think book agents are slow to respond to requests, the U.S. Copyright Office is even slower. They currently take about 8 months to process applications filed electronically, and about 13 months for standard applications.

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What methods can I use to submit my book manuscript?
How to Copyright a Book FAQ

If you register online you can attach an electronic copy; however, you might also be required to submit a printed copy.

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Do I need to file a new copyright if I change my book?
How to Copyright a Book FAQ

Only if the changes you make are substantial, more than just editorial changes like spelling corrections. If you make substantial changes, like adding a chapter, the new book would be considered a new derivative work requiring an additional copyright registration.

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How long does a copyright last?
How to Copyright a Book FAQ

The term of your book copyright depends on different factors, including whether your book has been published already (and, if it has been published), the date of first publication. In general (for books created after January 1, 1978), copyright protection lasts for the life of the author plus an additional 70 years. However, in the case of an anonymous book, pseudonymous book, or a book made for hire, the copyright lasts for 95 years from the year of first publication or a term of 120 years from the year of its creation, whichever expires first.

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Do I have to renew my book copyright?
How to Copyright a Book FAQ

Books created on or after January 1, 1978, don’t qualify for renewal registration; however, renewal registration is optional for books published or registered prior to January 1, 1978, and it provides some legal advantages. But why wouldn’t you file a registration, if you can, for the same reason you filed the original book copyright.

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Are book copyrights transferable?
How to Copyright a Book FAQ

Yes, a book copyright is transferrable like any other personal property.

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How do I register my copyright?
How to Copyright a Book FAQ

You’ll be required to submit an application form, a nonrefundable filing fee of $35 (online) or $55 (standard), and a nonreturnable copy of your book that you’d like registered. Each book requires a separate application and you can pay via credit card. You can apply here: http://copyright.gov.

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Want to know more about protecting your work?
How to Copyright a Book FAQ

If you liked this article about how to copyright a book, read this other article about NDAs or nondisclosure agreements. There’s a lot of confusion on this topic as well. If you’re worried about confidentiality, or your book or book idea being stolen or copied when you’re sending your book to literary agents and other publishing professionals, check it out.

And post any questions you have about
how to copyright a book below.

All my best,

–  Mark
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