How To Copyright Your Book

U. S. law provides you copyright protection automatically upon the creation of your work. But you can gain greater protection if you register your copyright with the Library of Congress.

Copyright registration is the official legal notice of your copyright claim for the project. Before you can sue for copyright infringement, you must have the copyright registered with the Library of Congress.

Many people used to – and some still do – try the “poor man copyright” method of mailing a copy of the manuscript to themselves. The unopened envelope provided proof that the project was in existence on a certain date, thanks to the postmark.

But that method is not a particularly strong one, especially in this day of technology. The better and more effective way to protect your project’s copyright is to properly register it.

You can visit the Library of Congress’s Web site and print out the application. Submit the application, the registration fee (about $45) and copies of the manuscript to the Library of Congress. Get the complete details for your particular project at the Library of Congress, as different types of creative works require different submission procedures.

Even if you’ve already published your book, it’s not too late to register the copyright. Copyright may be registered anytime during the life of the project, but the sooner, the better, as the point is to provide you a measure of legal protection, should you need it.

You will receive a copyright certificate about four to five months — possibly longer — following successful submission of your application and accompanying materials.