A lot of people don’t know this, but from the moment you put your thoughts on paper, they are copyrighted.
The problem is, how do you prove it?
See, if someone wants to steal your work, and you have no concrete way of proving it’s yours, then your automatic copyright means nothing.
So how do you prove that your work is yours? There are two ways.
1. “Poor Man’s Copyright”
This method is inexpensive and straightforward. Simply put your manuscript in an envelope, seal it and mail it to yourself. Don’t open the package when you get it back, as that defeats the purpose. It establishes a legal date of possession that you can refer to in the case that ownership becomes an issue in court. This method isn’t foolproof though, and you should probably only use it with manuscript or works that you aren’t terribly concerned about.
2. Copyright Registration
This should really be the only method. Copyright registration isn’t free, but it’s effective and will hold up in court (and everywhere else) no matter what. Also, no one can say you switched envelopes, or mysteriously make your proof “disappear.” It’s best to register your work with the U.S. Copyright office, which involves filling out a form (online or by mail), attaching the “best edition” of your work, and a nominal fee. What are the benefits of using this method over the ‘poor man’s’ method?
– it creates a public record of your copyright
– you can sue for copyright infringement
– if done within 5 years of first writing the book, your registration alone can hold up in court as evidence that you own it
-U.S. Copyright registrations are recognized by courts in over 150 other countries
So if you have finished your manuscript and haven’t copyrighted it yet, then get on that. I’ll help you with the process if you get stuck, just email me at email@example.com.