Registering your copyright with the US Copyright Office is quick, easy, and relatively inexpensive. While it’s not actually necessary in order for an author to claim copyright, Trio recommends that all authors register their copyright to protect their claim to their work.
If you’re an author, you probably know that your claim to copyright of your work is established as soon as your work exists in fixed form. That is, if you’ve written a book manuscript, you can claim copyright of that manuscript. When you insert into your manuscript the symbol © and/or the word “copyright,” along with the date and your name, you’re announcing to the world that you are the copyright holder.
Still, Trio recommends that all book authors, whether planning to self-publish or submit their work to a publisher, register their copyright with the US Copyright Office. If your work is registered with your name, you have a dated record that can prove your case in the event that you find someone has claimed the right to your work or a piece of your work. Trio recommends that you register your book manuscript when it is in its near-final form. (It does not have to be the final published form or have gone through any stages of editing.)
As long as copyright is registered within three months after a book is published, you have access to legal recourse if your work is infringed on or otherwise copied without your permission. For more details about copyright, the US Copyright Office has a Copyright Basics document (PDF) available under the “About” menu on the homepage.
It’s easy to register your copyright online. The Electronic Copyright Office (eCO) has a helpful tutorial available in PowerPoint and PDF. Follow the steps to register the basic information about the author and the work, make an electronic payment (currently $35), and upload your file(s). The tutorial features screen shots with annotations to walk you through each screen and registration stage.
Once you’ve registered online, paid, and uploaded your manuscript, you can check your account online in the weeks that follow to monitor progress of your copyright application. The time it takes for registration to be completed varies, but four to six months is typical.
For more information, check out the US Copyright Office’s copyright FAQ.
Note: This post does not constitute professional legal advice. If you are in need of legal advice, please consult an attorney.