Obtaining A Copyright

If you are the author of any original work — written or artistic in nature — you can copyright it…And you should! This is especially important if you self-publish directories, catalogs, pamphlets, leaflets, cards, single pages or any publications such as newspapers, magazines, reviews, newsletters, and bulletins. Also, scripts, lectures, sermons, maps, monologues and cartoons. In essence, you can and should copyright almost anything that you write or draw.

According to the law, a work is technically copyrighted the moment it is created in a fixed or final form. The copyright is created at the moment the material is created in its final form, not at the time of publication as it was prior to 1978. Therefore, any created work is protected for its author when it is developed.

As creator, you possess certain legal rights pertaining to the copying, sale, or distribution of the work. There is another reason to copyright your work. It lends credence to you and your book. The absence of the copyright information on the reverse of the title page informs any knowledgeable reader that you are new to publishing and not well established as either an author or publisher. Even if this is true, it can only hurt the sale of your publication, never help it.

You as author or publisher must act to make sure that copyright is respected by anyone reading your book or report. Otherwise, you may place your indisputable right to any profits resulting from the sale of the work in jeopardy. Protection of your copyright is an important step in securing your ownership in the eyes of the work’s audience and the law.

Copyright protection is fully accomplished by following these three steps:

Production of copies of the work with copyright notification.

Publication of the work.

Registration of the copyright.

Copyright protection — not ownership of copyright — is relatively easy to obtain. You do this by publishing your book or report with the appropriate copyright information either on the reverse of the title page or clearly displayed on the work itself. The information could appear directly on the title page or even the cover, if you do not have an interior title page.

The copyright information consists of three individual elements: Your name or company name, the word “Copyright”, the abbreviation “Copr.”, or the indicia ©, and, finally, the year of publication. Use of the copyright indicia (the small c within a circle) may also give you copyright protection within other countries that are members of the International Copyright Convention. This is important if you plan to market your work overseas. A copyright runs for the life of the author plus 50 years after his death.

The copyright remains with and belongs to an author unless it is specifically transferred, in writing, to someone else. Although the ownership of the rights can change, the author will always remain the same and another name cannot be put in his or her place. Just the same, in order to fully protect yourself against future problems, you should go through the necessary steps to register your copyright with the United States government. Once registered, you will have further proof of your right to the work should the need arise.

For real legal protection, you should fill out the formal application for copyright registration and send it, two copies of your finished book, and the $20 registration fee to: The Register of Copyrights, The Library of Congress, Washington, DC 20559. For forms and additional information about copyrights write to the same address.

After applying for your registration, within 16 weeks you will receive a certificate of registration to indicate the work has been registered. If further information is needed, you will be contacted by letter or by phone. If the application is rejected, you will receive a letter explaining why.

The copyright registration is effective on the date that all the required elements (application, fee, and deposit) in acceptable form are received in the Copyright Office, regardless of the length of time it takes the Copyright Office to process the application and mail the certificate of registration. You do not have to receive your certificate before you publish or produce your work, nor do you need permission from the Copyright Office to place a notice of copyright on your material.

ISBN And Library of Congress Numbers

If you want your book to be available worldwide to bookstores and libraries, you should obtain an ISBN (International Standard Book Number). An ISBN number is obtained from The International Standard Book Numbering Agency, 121 Chanlon Road, New Providence, New Jersey 07974. This is also the address of the R. R. Bowker Company. Bowker assigns ISBN numbers for the United States. Write to them requesting information. They will send you a set of application forms.

After you have completed the application forms, return them by mail to Bowker along with the appropriate the proper fee (approximately $100). The ISBN agency will assign you a group of numbers. You then assign each number of the group in succession to the various books that you publish. The Bowker Company will annually request an updated list of your titles and the numbers assigned to them, along with pertinent publication data related to the individual texts. They will then list your publications in Books in Print, a publication widely used by libraries, universities, bookstores, and large distributors. Assignment of an ISBN number to your work enables the buyers mentioned above to obtain easy access to ordering information about your work.

To assign a Library of Congress catalog number to your book (to facilitate its addition to the collections of libraries around the United States), write to The Library of Congress, Descriptive Catalog Division, Washington, DC 20540, to obtain all the information on securing this number.

While obtaining ISBN and Library of Congress numbers in and of themselves will not sell any books for you, the absence of them in your books could negatively influence decisions by buyers and potential distributors to handle your publications. Like the copyright notice, these numbers should also be placed on the reverse of the title page. The ISBN number is also printed on the bottom of the back cover, as well as on the bottom back of the jacket, if a jacket is used.

Your books are your livelihood. Protect them and market them wisely.

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