It is not uncommon for people to undertake the venture of creating written material for the purpose of publishing. For those interested in having their material published, it is strongly recommended that they copyright written material in order to protect their work. To copyright a book or written material is also an option even for those that write on a recreational basis and do not necessarily intend to have their works published.
Copyrighting written material is important in order to prevent others from taking the idea and entering it into publications and not only receiving all credit, but reaping any inherent financial benefits as well. The following are five steps to copyright a book or written material.
1. RESEARCH THE MAIN IDEA OF THE BOOK OR WRITTEN MATERIAL – Even though the written material may prove to be original in the sense that the writer is the sole creator of it, the general idea that is the core of the book may in fact already be protected by copyright. Before undertaking the procedure to copyright written material, it will prove worth the effort to make sure that similar subject matter or ideas are not already copyrighted in order to avoid possible legal troubles.
Copyrights are intended to only protect material in terms of the expression of an idea or concept, not the actual idea itself. This is known as Idea-Expression Divide and is a doctrine used in copyright laws in the United States. An example would be a mystery novel. To copyright a book in this genre means that the author is seeking to copyright the expression of the genre, such as the plot or story, characters, or even included artwork. However, the mystery genre itself is not the item being copyrighted.
2. MAKE COPIES OF THE BOOK OR WRITTEN MATERIAL – Upon having finished several drafts of the book or written material and a final draft has been completed, it is important to make copies of the final version. All original drafts should also be kept together as well. However, copies should be made of the final version, which should be the one that is intended to be copyrighted. To copyright a book or written material will require that copies be sent to the United States Copyright Office during the copyright registration process. However, even though it is necessary for copyright registration, copies should be made for the purpose of having more proof of the original work.
3. VISIT THE UNITED STATES COPYRIGHT OFFICE WEBSITE – Visiting the Copyright Office website is important in order to have all of the necessary information that is required to copyright a book or written material. The website will not only explain the rights granted through copyright and proper registration, but will also outline the registration procedure. To copyright written material may be complex in some cases and will take time to complete. It is important to know all of the requirements of the registration process in order to be properly prepared.
4. OBTAIN AND FILL OUT THE COPYRIGHT APPLICATION FORMS – To copyright a book will require that certain kinds of information be included in the application for the copyright registration process. Furthermore, depending on the method of registration, it may also require a medium-specific form. This is the case with the Paper Form for copyright registration, which requires that Form TX be used. However, if applying electronically, either through the eCO Application or the CO Fill-in Form, it may only require that it be specified on the application what kind of creative work is being registered.
The application forms will have specific directions and require information such as the title of the work, year of completion, publication date (if applicable, otherwise, it may refer to the date the work was actually created), and author, applicant, or claimant information.
5. SUBMIT APPLICATIONS AND COPIES OF WRITTEN MATERIAL AND WAIT FOR APPROVAL – Upon filing the applications along with the required copies of the book or written material and paying the required fees, all that is left is to wait for notification from the Copyright Office. If the registration is approved, a certificate of copyright will be received in the mail.
However, during the waiting period, a person may decide to publish their work. Since copyright protection is not official at the time, it is recommended that the works be marked as "copyright pending" so as to give notice to those using the works that the registration process is in the works.