When you’ve written a fantastic book or story, there may be people who want to plagiarize your work or sell it as their own. Thanks to the Internet and various forms of e-publishing, it’s easier than ever to plagiarize and pirate writing. This is why authors need to be careful about managing their intellectual property.
The most basic way for writers to protect their intellectual property is the copyright. A copyright protects the work of writers, artists, and others by giving them exclusive rights over the original work they create. This means that only they can reproduce a piece of writing and collect income derived from it.
After a certain amount of time, the copyright on a specific work expires and the work enters the public domain. But until that happens anyone who wants to use a piece of writing that is copyright protected needs the express permission of the author and may be required to pay to get that permission.
How do I copyright something?
The process of obtaining a copyright on something you’ve written is actually fairly straightforward. Because copyright arises when something original has been written, you technically do not need to apply for a copyright. However, you do need to be able to document or substantiate your copyright in some way so that you could prove ownership in a legal situation. One of the most effective ways to do this is to register with the U.S. Copyright Office. If the book has been published (either traditionally or through self-publishing) in the United States, two copies of the book need to be submitted along with a number of forms and a small fee. Registration with the U.S. Copyright Office is the best option to protect against theft because you receive a document that certifies your copyright and proves your ownership.
Can I copyright the idea for my next book?
Unfortunately, no. Copyrights do not protect ideas. While the idea is the first step toward creating a book, there can be no intellectual property protection and no exclusive rights to that idea. To be eligible for a copyright, you need to flesh out your idea to the point where it is concrete enough to be more than an idea. This means that you need to have at least a draft. If you have an amazing idea, start writing! Don’t wait for someone else to have the same idea or write a book using yours.
We recommend registering your book with the U.S. Copyright Office as soon as the book is finished but before it is available for purchase. If you self-publish with NWA Publishing, we’ll even register your work for you by submitting all the necessary documentation on your behalf.
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