You’ve written a book. You decided to publish. You researched the benefits of registering your creative work with the copyright office and now you want to protect your intellectual property. So, how do you register your work?
Simple. Follow these three easy steps.
- Complete the application;
- Pay the registration fee; and
- Submit your book to the Copyright Office.
Complete the application
If you are traditionally published, confirm if the publisher is filing a copyright registration. In my experience, most do but other authors have not had this experience. In the end, it depends on the book and the publisher. The onus is on the author to follow-up. If you are self-publishing, then the author will have to complete the registration process.
The fastest and cheapest way to register your copyright is the on-line registration portal on the Copyright Office website. The standard electronic registration fee as of March 2021 is $65 unless you are registering one work and it’s not made for hire, then the fee is $45.
From the on-line registration portal on the Copyright Office website, log-in to the electronic copyright office registration system. You’ll need to create an account with a user ID and password. An address and an email address are required.
Once you’ve finished creating your account, click on “Standard Application” on the left-hand side under “Register a Work.”
Next, click on “Start Registration” at the top of the page. At this point, you’ll have a few sections to fill out. These are straightforward and self-explanatory. But If you need help when filling out the form, click the “Help” link in the top-right header bar.
- Type of Work:
- Most likely you’ll be submitting a book. Books, and most written work, fall under Literary Work.
- Use the title that appears on your book.
- Use the date your work was first published. If you have an ISBN, add that too. If you are registering one unpublished work, use the year that the work was first fixed in its final form. If you are registering more than one unpublished work, you have to use a different form than the standard form.
- List the names of the author(s).
- List name and address of all the copyright claimants, i.e., the person(s) owning the copyright which usually is the author(s) of the work.
- Limitation of Claim:
- This section deals with pre-existing material. It is used when a copyright registration is being submitted on work that was previously registered, previously published, or in the public domain. Basically, the section will exclude preexisting material from your copyright and identify only the new material that you are claiming. If there is no pre-existing material, then hit “Continue” and go to the next section.
- Rights & Permissions:
- This section is optional. This information informs anyone who searches for your copyright who to contact to obtain a license or permission to use your work.
- Your contact info goes here, or whoever is the designated contact for your copyright.
- Mail Certificate:
- Fill in the address and name for where the Copyright Office should send the copyright registration certificate.
- Special Handling:
- If you want to expedite the application, you can. But it will cost you. See the fee structure above.
- Here the author will certify that the author is the owner of the material as it is being registered.
Once done with the above categories, you can review the submission and make any changes. Once submitted you cannot make changes. Add the application to your cart and then check out!
Pay the registration
Once you’ve completed all the sections on the application and added it to your cart, you’ll pay the fee (either by debit, credit card, or deposit account).
Submit your book
The last step is submitting your work. Some deposits of the work being registered can be uploaded with the application. Other deposits must be mailed in hard copy format via the United States Postal Service (USPS). Books that qualify for uploading an electronic version are usually unpublished works, works published only in electronic format or works not subject to the best edition requirements. In most cases, authors will be required to submit their book in hard copy. If you have to submit via mail, the on-line application process, once you’ve paid the fee, will take you directly to a page for printing a shipping label.
You are done. You’ve registered your work, protected your intellectual property, and created a public record of your book. At the same time, you’ve created an insurance policy against the unlikely event someone decides to steal your content, giving you the ability to sue and some peace of mind.
Other options if you don’t want to use the on-line process
You can use a paper application. The process requires you to print out an application from the Copyright Office website. Books fall under literary works which use Form TX. The registration fee is higher than the online option above, $125 as of March 2021. If you want forms sent to you, you can request the Copyright Office send them by USPS.
If you need more info on how to register here are a few more blog posts on the topic, some with detailed pictorial step-by-step guides:
- C.S. Lakin — https://theselfpublisher.com/how-to-copyright-a-book/
- Reedsy Blog — https://blog.reedsy.com/how-to-copyright-a-book/
- Copyright Office — https://www.copyright.gov/registration/literary-works/
- Copyright Office — https://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-register.html
- Joe Runge — https://www.legalzoom.com/articles/how-to-copyright-a-book
- Scott Allan — https://selfpublishing.com/how-to-copyright-a-book/
Legal Disclaimer: The information in this article is for educational purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice or establish an attorney-client relationship. I am a writer, who is also a lawyer, helping other fellow writers learn about publishing law-related issues. Consult a qualified lawyer in your jurisdiction for all legal opinions for your specific situation.