Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Should I Copyright My Work?

By Carol Denbow

One of the most commonly asked questions of new authors is “Should I copyright my work?” Authors are concerned their work might be stolen by some smuck (sorry, couldn’t think of a better descriptive word) who reprints their work and claims authorship for it. Well, the truth is, it could be. But whether filing a legal copyright will make a difference; that’s uncertain.

Since the 1976 Copyright Act, the need to file a legal copyright has changed. The new copyright act states, “Copyright protection now subsists from the time the work is created in fixed form. The copyright in the work of authorship immediately becomes the property of the author who created the work. Only the author or those deriving their rights through the author can rightfully claim copyright.” (U.S. Copyright Office, “Copyright Office Basics,” Who Can Claim Copyright, www.copyright.gov, Washington, DC, 2006)

If you find that someone has reprinted your work under their name, the process of claiming copyright follows about the same path whether you have legally or assumedly copyrighted your work. The first step to take is to contact the U.S Copyright office and report the infringement. Also contact Writer Beware (http://www.sfwa.org/beware/).

For legitimate authors, a rule of thumb is never copy more than three words in sequence of another person’s work. If you want to use someone else’s work word-for-word as part of your book, such as a quote or research document, you will need written permission from that person (See Vol. 6).
If you lose sleep worrying that someone will steal your work, by all means, file a legal copyright. The journey to becoming a published author can be stressful enough without this additional concern.
If you’re concerned about the total protection of your work, or feel better with the guarantee of register copyright, visit the U.S. Copyright office online to learn more about the copyright process (see resources).
Copyright symbol © Wrapping the letter “c” will automatically create a copyright symbol on your word processor. Include the month and year, i.e., Copyright © April 2008 by “your name.”

Suggested Reading: U.S. Copyright www.copyright.gov

Carol Denbow is the author of Are You Ready to Be Your Own Boss? (2006 Plain & Simple Books, LLC), Stress Relief for the Working Stiff (summer 2008 Publish America) and A Book Inside, Writing, Publishing, and Selling Your Story (Summer 2008 Plain & Simple Books, LLC).

No comments: