Last week, AuthorHouse presented some information about copyrights and how they affect you as an author. This subject is very deep and complex, and while we wouldn’t attempt to put together an exhaustive guide, we have a few more tips that you might find helpful in as you self-publish.
You can’t copyright an idea. So we’re eating dinner together, and you tell me your great book idea about a theme park with dinosaurs reconstructed from frog DNA. Tonight I go home and write Jurassic Park. Can you sue me? Yes. Will you win? No. Although you had an idea, you didn’t put it into a perceptible form, visible directly or with a device.
You need to fix the date of your copyright. So if you’re protected automatically, why bother registering your work (with the Library of Congress, for example)? Because if someone does steal your story and the matter goes to court, it’s important to establish who’s work was first. In the absence of such registration, other evidence (such as witness testimonies) can be presented; however, it’s likely the other side will find witnesses too, so a registration is always a much better friend to have in your corner.
What about a “poor man’s copyright?” You’ve probably heard about this one before: just wrap up a copy of your book and mail it to yourself (don’t open it when you receive it). The date on the package, stamped by the post office, will unofficially “register” your work, right?
Unfortunately, no. There’s no provision in U.S. law for such a thing, and it’s never actually been tested in court. And it’s rather easy to fake, if you think about it; the post office won’t stop you from mailing an empty envelope to yourself. If you’re going to the trouble of wrapping up your book and mailing it anyway, why not just get it registered?
We hope that you found this series informative and useful. But if you forget everything else, just remember our first tip: consult a lawyer if you have any questions!
Have a great weekend and joyous holiday season!