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Archived Author Help > Copyright my books: what is general opinion?

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message 1: by Christina (new)

Christina Harlin | 2 comments I have self-published my own books for seven years now, and buy my ISBNs in bulk from Bowker, because I usually have 2-3 versions of a book to publish (e-book, paperback, sometimes a special kindle edition). I like Bowker's services. Now, getting to the point, Bowker has recently sent me an offer of a package deal that reduces the cost of obtaining copyrights. I've published ten books and never officially copyrighted any one them. I was wondering what the general thought was about this - am I crazy not to copyright? None of the booksellers require it, and at this point I'm basically a small-scale operation, so it seems kind of like a silly expense. Anyone want to weigh in with an opinion? Thanks so much!


message 2: by Ken (new)

Ken Doggett (kendoggett) Your work is automatically copyrighted the moment you write it. As I understand it, you need a formal copyright only if you intend to sue for the unauthorized use of your work; however, you can still obtain the copyright at that time. As always, it's best to seek the advice of an attorney, but you can find credible sources online to guide you.


Sam (Rescue Dog Mom, Writer, Hugger) (sammydogs) | 973 comments Interesting. I'm in the U.S. and thought I had to formally copyright. I will now research this more.


message 4: by G.G. (last edited Jul 21, 2016 12:22PM) (new)

G.G. (ggatcheson) | 2491 comments No, the Copyright website will even tell you when you actually apply that you do not have to do it but that they may be able to help with the lawsuits if someone copies your work.

As Ken said, your work is automatically copyrighted the moment you write it and you can use their © to claim a copyright even if you didn't officially do it.

See here: http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ03... (under 'Use of Copyright Notice' section, (third note down the page)).

Now, some laws may not apply in other countries. I'd suggest you check with yours to make sure.


message 5: by Annie (new)

Annie Arcane (anniearcane) | 629 comments Yeppers, Mr Ken is right on the money!

Registering your copyright simply puts the details on public record, which is VERY helpful when you're about to sue the pants off somebody ^_~

Not that I'm obsessed with legalities or anything silly like that.

*smirks*

Hugs,
Ann


Sam (Rescue Dog Mom, Writer, Hugger) (sammydogs) | 973 comments Thank you all for this helpful information! I will look into it more. I wanna get it right the first time. : )


message 7: by G.G. (new)

G.G. (ggatcheson) | 2491 comments I was told prices had changed (and will vary with countries). They are also not the same if you wait after publishing in paperback.
When I did mine (electronically), I did it before publishing in both ebook and paper formats) and it only cost 35$ per book back then so I didn't see why not do it. (But again, no one forces you to do it.)

I honestly did it mostly to get that little paper. Having that in my hands was ALMOST as thrilling as having the printed book itself. :P


message 8: by P.D. (new)

P.D. Workman (pdworkman) Ours are $50 per book and give you a pretty maple leaf certificate.


message 9: by C.B., Beach Body Moderator (new)

C.B. Archer | 1090 comments Mod
Here is something you can do to protect yourself.

Take a copy of your final manuscript to the post office and mail it to yourself in something that needs to get sealed, like an envelope. When you get the package, never open it.

Keep that on file. If anyone ever steals your work, or claims they did it first, you have a version that is impossible to have forged, dated. It is a golden ticket in court.

Speaking of that, I should really go do that. :S


message 10: by P.D. (new)

P.D. Workman (pdworkman) No, no, no. "Poor man's copyright" of mailing it to yourself does not give you any protection in court. None at all.


message 11: by C.B., Beach Body Moderator (new)

C.B. Archer | 1090 comments Mod
Eep.

I took a course in copyright in college and the teacher legitimately taught us that.
*sigh* I hate that school even more now, which is saying something.


message 12: by G.G. (last edited Jul 21, 2016 02:32PM) (new)

G.G. (ggatcheson) | 2491 comments I can't verify because my computer is installing Windows 10 at the moment, but if I remember right the copyright website agrees with PD that it won't protect you. I'll check out later...if my computer doesn't crash lol


message 13: by P.D. (new)

P.D. Workman (pdworkman) Assuming you are in the US:

http://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq...

I’ve heard about a “poor man’s copyright.” What is it?
The practice of sending a copy of your own work to yourself is sometimes called a “poor man’s copyright.” There is no provision in the copyright law regarding any such type of protection, and it is not a substitute for registration.

And although there are some sites that say it may be helpful in the UK:

https://www.copyrightservice.co.uk/se...

Any system where you retain the evidence yourself is very weak as it provides no independent evidence, and means that a court or tribunal would only have your word that you actually placed the work in the envelope at the time of posting.
If you use the postal service (sometimes called ‘poor man’s copyright’), or any commercial system which requires you to store the work yourself, there is no evidence to say that the contents have not been swapped, or that you did not seal the envelope years later. It is so easy to cast doubt on such evidence, we believe it is next to worthless.


Sam (Rescue Dog Mom, Writer, Hugger) (sammydogs) | 973 comments Thank you P.D. for the link. I operate under the premise of "You never know." and "Better safe than sorry." I would be very upset if someone ripped off my book and I could have done something to prevent it.


message 15: by P.D. (new)

P.D. Workman (pdworkman) I have registered copyright for all of my published books. If there is any question of someone plagiarizing or duplicating my book, I want to be able to whip out my registration and issue a takedown notice or cease and desist without delay.


message 16: by J.N. (new)

J.N. Bedout (jndebedout) | 115 comments To protect your rights in court, it is probably best to file the copyright. $35 per filing. And if you do ebook only, you can upload your work rather than mail it in. Technically you own the copyright outright, but I think you lose certain legal options if you never filed it.

Best to check the copyright.gov site for more information.

(Note: I am NOT a lawyer...)


message 17: by Angela (new)

Angela Joseph | 132 comments P.D. wrote: "Assuming you are in the US:

http://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq...

I’ve heard about a “poor man’s copyright.” What is it?
The practice of sending a copy of your own work to yourself i..."

That's right, P.D. The "poor man's copyright" doesn't work. I learned that at a conference. It's better to just pay the $35.


message 18: by Susan (new)

Susan  Morton | 110 comments I think we are conflating two issues. The first is the issue of rights, the second of evidence (proof). Copyright exists as of the time of origination. Put a copyright notice on the work and you will have "some" evidence of the date of origination. Do the mail thing (with a notarized affidavit in the envelope with the text and you have "a little bit more" evidence. Actually register the copyright and you will have "excellent" (actually, conclusive) evidence of the date of origination.
A friend of mine spent a fortune in litigation over the origination date of one of his properties -- the registration fee is the best money you'll ever spend.
Having said that, I do note that nothing will stop the guy who is trying to steal your work from presenting evidence it was his book first, and he wrote it before you registered, and see, here is his handwritten proof . . . .


message 19: by Christina (new)

Christina Harlin | 2 comments WOW - thank you so much, everyone, for all your responses. I have learned a great deal and am so glad I asked. This has cleared up a quite few things in my mind. Sounds like it may be too late for me to officially copyright my work from the past years, but I think I'll budget to do it on all works in the future. I had not even considered the issue of date of origination.


T. K. Elliott (Tiffany) (t_k_elliott) Note for anyone who is in the UK: the UK does NOT operate an American-style copyright registration system.

There is a website you can use to register your work (they will store a copy for you, to prove date), but that's not necessary if you don't want to do it.

In the UK, you have copyright the instant you finish the work, and you do not need to do anything else to gain the right to sue if your copyright is infringed. Evidence is, of course, a different matter - and that's where "poor man's copyright" would probably work out much better in the UK than it does in the US. Any evidence of the date on which your work existed is likely to be helpful.

It's also worth noting that any UK authors who sell in the US do not need to go through US copyright registration. UK rules apply to us - so, no registration.


message 21: by P.D. (new)

P.D. Workman (pdworkman) that's where "poor man's copyright" would probably work out much better in the UK than it does in the US. Any evidence of the date on which your work existed is likely to be helpful.

In the US (and Canada) you also have copyright the instant you finish the work and do not need to put the copyright symbol on your work or do anything else to gain that right. And we also register through a website.

Note the quote from the UK copyright website above - "If you use the postal service (sometimes called ‘poor man’s copyright’), or any commercial system which requires you to store the work yourself, there is no evidence to say that the contents have not been swapped, or that you did not seal the envelope years later. It is so easy to cast doubt on such evidence, we believe it is next to worthless."


T. K. Elliott (Tiffany) (t_k_elliott) Indeed - but any attempt to provide evidence that you produced your work when you did is better than no attempt at all. And one should always consider the source - and whether they are trying to sell you something that is not a legal requirement... For instance, see here: http://www.prsformusic.com/aboutus/fa... - who are not trying to sell copyright protection services - giving exactly the opposite advice.

Naturally, work stored in a place where there is a robust audit trail of access is the best evidence of a date before which a work was produced - but if you can't afford that, then you go to the next best thing.

Remember, in UK civil cases, you only have to prove your case on balance of probabilities (i.e., greater than 50/50). The more evidence you have that you produced the work when you say you did, the better for you. There may not be any one thing where you can slap it on the table and say "Eat that, plagiarist," but the name of the game is to have better evidence than your opponent.

Furthermore, the more evidence you have, the more likely your opponent will fold before it gets to court. You don't want things to get to court, because that's long-winded and expensive - you want your opponent to stop plagiarising your work, and hopefully compensate you as well.

So, a posted-to-yourself-and-still-unsealed copy will help stack up the evidence, particularly if you can also produce drafts, invoices for editing/printing etc.

There being no new ideas under the sun, this is also useful if someone else accuses you of plagiarising their (similar) work - which is what happened to Dan Brown (he won). Keeping a few drafts means you can show the evolution of your ideas.

In a system where there is no requirement to register copyright, the onus is on you to provide some evidence of when you produced the work, and what it contained. How you do it is up to you - and when it comes to evidence, more is better.

The worst thing you can probably do is nothing at all.


message 23: by P.D. (new)

P.D. Workman (pdworkman) Ah - my mistake is in thinking that was the central government copyright site, rather than a services retailer. Thank you for the correction!


T. K. Elliott (Tiffany) (t_k_elliott) Oh, no worries - I thought the same thing when I first came across it a few years ago. I knew copyright was an unregistered right, but I thought "Oh, the government has provided a service to make it easier for authors to prove they own stuff. That's sweet."

Then I realised they hadn't...

To be fair, I reckon when my poor novel is finished, I'll probably go with them (belt and braces, and all that), but I'll also be keeping my drafts in archive files. And for short stories, their fees are a wee bit steep, so I'll be poor-man's-copyrighting my little heart out.

And remember, darlings, the worst possible time to start thinking about being able to prove you own your work is after you find somebody has plagiarised it!


message 25: by P.D. (new)

P.D. Workman (pdworkman) “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” – Chinese Proverb


message 26: by Alex (last edited Jul 26, 2016 10:42AM) (new)

Alex (asato) P.D. wrote: "“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” – Chinese Proverb"

a pretty good article--although somewhat dated, it is still relevant--by Ken Liu on the SFWA website:

http://www.sfwa.org/2013/02/the-benef...

and here for all of you excellent romance writers:

http://rainbowromancewriters.com/node...


message 27: by Pearl (last edited Jul 27, 2016 10:14PM) (new)

Pearl Kirkby | 8 comments Very interesting thread. I'm just glad my first book started out as a college assignment which was shared in the Staff breakroom! Nothing like having two dozen witnesses :\ The follow-up novel has only time-stamps from my computer as original "proof of date", but this one will also be official at the US copyright office the moment it's published!


message 28: by H.E. (last edited Jul 29, 2016 04:50AM) (new)

H.E. Bulstrode (goodreadscomhebulstrode) | 84 comments Copyright seems to be something of a minefield. Have any of you had the unsettling experience of searching for your Kindle ebook online only to find some outfit claiming text copyright to their publication? That is what seemingly has happened to me, with something calling itself 'clear-insurance.co.uk'. The initial line from the work in question can be seen highlighted in the Google search results. Maybe it's just a straightforward fishing exercise trying to extract money from me, but I do feel uneasy about it, as well as angry. I'm based in the UK, and keep electronic copies of my drafts as they evolve, which do, of course, have the date and time of their creation attached to them. Would you consider this to constitute sufficient evidence of me being the creator of my own work?

Any suggestions from fellow contributors welcome. Perhaps I'm worrying unduly about all of this.


message 29: by W. (new)

W. Boutwell | 157 comments As you said, not to copyright is crazy.


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