Three Things New Writers Need to Know About Copyright

The whole concept of copyright can be puzzling to new writers. I tell them to think about it like this: The work we produce is the “copy” and our ownership of that copy is the “right.” Your work is copyrighted when you create it, and you own all rights to it, unless or until you allow someone else to use it or you transfer your rights to others. Note, however, that when you write anything under a works-for-hire agreement, you have no rights whatsoever to the work you create.

That said, here are three essential things writers need to know about copyright:

1. You don’t have to put copyright information on any manuscript you send to an editor or agent. In fact, you should not. Those who work in publishing know that you own the work you create. When you put copyright information on a manuscript, it makes you seem like an amateur who is expecting someone to steal your work — not the impression you want to give an editor or agent.

2. It is wise to include copyright information on work to be published in other situations, especially on the Internet. That gives notice to others that you own the work and you don’t want anyone infringing on your rights to it. It’s important to put copyright information on posts on your blogs and anywhere else where those who might not know better could lift your work — or large parts of it — for their own purposes. That’s one reason you’ll find copyright information at the end of every post on my blog. The proper form to use is the word “copyright” or the copyright symbol ©, the date and the author.

3. For the most protection, you have to register your work with the Copyright Office of the U.S. Library of Congress. This is especially true for book authors. Magazine writers rarely register their individual published work because magazines register every issue of their publications (writers still retain their original copyright protection on their own completed work). Currently, the cost for a paper copyright application is $45. The cost for electronic copyright filing is $35. Those fees may increase soon.

You can visit the Copyright Office website for details about a possible fee increase in the future and for more information about copyrights.

Please leave a comment.

©2008 by Laverne Daley
Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape



2 Comments on “Three Things New Writers Need to Know About Copyright”

  1. Peggy says:

    Laverne, I think some bloggers regularly do searches to make sure their content isn’t getting used without consent. Do you do this? I haven’t, but it’s not a bad idea.

    Also, I wonder if just one copyright on the bottom of the blog or somewhere else would work as well as one on each post? The way you are doing it might be safer though.

  2. Surely it’s not a bad idea to do regular searches, but I admit that hasn’t been a practice of mine. It really should be.

    As for placement of the copyright info, would someone trying to steal work respect the copyright on the blog any more than on individual posts? I have seen some blogs with big bold warnings about copying any part of the content and I’m not sure if that is any more effective than a copyright notice on each post. I think the basic idea is to have copyright info somewhere in case of any future litigation. when you’d have to prove the work contained sufficient notice. I’m just in the habit of putting it at the end of each post.

    Now I just have to develop the habit of checking to see if anyone is lifting my posts.

    Thanks for your comment, Peggy. It makes me think. I like comments that make me think!

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