How Do I Copyright My Book?

Now that you've finalized your manuscript, what's next in the book creation process? Whether you're business book printing or children's book printing, there's nothing more important than protecting ownership over your work. This is where copyright law comes into play.  

Making your intellectual property public record before it's shared with anyone can help prevent someone else from replicating and profiting from your work, as well as the costly legalities that may ensue. 

A type of intellectual property law rooted in the United States Constitution, copyright safeguards original works of authorship. The steps to copyrighting your book are fairly simple: learn the basics of copyright law, find out if your work is eligible, submit a copyright application with the U.S. Copyright Office, and create a copyright page for your book. 

To help you move through this phase with an informed perspective, Book1One details each step in the book-copyrighting process. 


Copyright Law 101

Getting to know the law and how it safeguards your book is an important first step. Copyright is a specific form of protection that's separate from patents or trademarks. While a patent protects the inventions or discoveries made by individuals and a trademark protects specific words, phrases, or designs, copyright protects published and unpublished works as a whole. 

How does the law apply to unpublished works? Let us explain. 

Yes, copyright protects printed, circulated works. However, it can also protect books and other works that have not been distributed in any manner. This is where the date of publication becomes important. Typically, this date refers to the point in time where copies of the work are made available to the public. Essentially, copyright law protects your work – whether or not it has been made publicly available. 

Do you have to register your creative work with the U.S. Copyright Office? No. This is an optional step for authors. However, it's one that could be highly beneficial in the long run.  

Official registration with the U.S. Copyright Office is strictly voluntary. According to its general FAQs, copyright exists automatically from the moment the author creates the work and it reaches a tangible form (meaning, it's printed or at least perceptible with the aid of a device).  

Even so, copyrighting literary works is often highly recommended. The biggest benefit is that registration is required if you ever wanted to bring a copyright infringement lawsuit to court. Copyright registration puts pertinent facts about the book on the record, making it easier to prove that your work does – in fact – belong to you. If you're not sure you want to register right away, that's fine. As long as you register your book within five years of the publication date, it can be considered prima facie evidence in court (legally sufficient proof that's enough to establish a fact in a case). 

There is one possible loophole, however. If your book isn't intended for circulation and you don't want to register it, you could technically send a copy to yourself – just in case. Sometimes referred to as a "poor man's copyright," this action could help in an infringement lawsuit since the postmark proves the book's date of existence. However, there is no provision for this action under the law, and it shouldn't be considered a valid substitution for proper registration. 


Determining Eligibility Under Copyright Protection

The next step is to confirm that your creation can have legal copyright protection. The good news is that eligibility is pretty broad, and books, along with many other creative works, are widely qualified. Under the law, original literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works are protected. This includes the following: 

  • Novels 
  • Poetry
  • Movies
  • Songs
  • Sculptures
  • Choreography
  • Software programs
  • Architecture

Within these categories, the law gives you the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, perform, or display your creation, as well as craft derivative works based on the original manuscript. Some aspects of a creation that are not protected under copyright law include: 

  • Methods, procedures, systems, processes, ideas, concepts, principles, or discoveries 
  • Works that are not in tangible form
  • Titles, names, short phrases, and slogans 
  • Common symbols or designs 
  • Typographic ornamentation, lettering, or coloring variations 
  • Ingredients or contents lists

Additionally, if you co-authored your book with someone else and the work merges each person's contribution, you are considered joint authors with indivisible interest in the work. If you and other authors create a collective work where each contribution remains distinct, copyright ownership applies to each person individually. 


Submit an Application with the U.S. Copyright Office

Now that you know a little more about copyright law and have determined if your work is eligible, it's time to register with the U.S. Copyright Office, a department of the Library of Congress. For many authors, submitting the form online is the simplest way to register their work. Here are the steps to do so: 

  • Select the right category online: Book authors should select "literary works" under the registration menu to be directed to the correct area.  
  • Navigate to the form: Once you click "register a literary work" on this new page, you'll be redirected to the Electronic Copyright Office (eCO). 
  • Create an online account: Before registering, authors must first create an account through the eCO. Along with a username and password, common questions include contact information and current address.
  • Find the correct forms: After logging in, you can select "standard application," and move forward from there. This option is located under "register a work," which includes other options, as well. 
  • Pay the fee: Once you've completed the form, you'll need to pay the U.S. Copyright Office's filing fee online. This is done through for security. 
  • Submit your written work: Lastly, you'll be prompted to upload a copy of your final manuscript. Many file formats are accepted. And if you prefer, a mail-in option is also available.


Create Your Book's Copyright Page

Now it's time to create your book's copyright page, which is typically the back of your title page. The copyright notice itself follows this format: © + publication year + author's name. Aside from the copyright notice, other items typically included on this page include: 

  • Book edition 
  • International Standard Book Number (ISBN) 
  • Author's website 
  • Credits to the book 
  • Reservation of rights
  • Disclaimers 
  • Trademark notices for specific names and logos 
  • Environmental friendliness statement regarding the materials used for publishing the book 
  • Cataloging -in-publication data 

While adding a copyright page to your book certainly doesn't envelop it with even more protection under the law, it does let readers know that your work is on the record. The goal for this page is to hopefully discourage people from copying your work and causing litigation issues in the future. 



Now that you're familiar with copyright law, and you've determined that your book is eligible for registration, submitted a formal copyright application online, and created a copyright page, you can enjoy the peace of mind that comes with knowing your hard work is officially protected. 

Did you know that Book1One offers a host of resources for self-published authors? Along with the web address for the U.S. Copyright Office, our page of useful links provides several websites for further assistance.