Updated: Jun 3, 2020
You have heard it before, you wrote it--you own it. Absolutely true. This means a work does not need to be registered with the United States Copyright Office to be protected under Copyright Law. However, there are several reasons you will want to register your work with the U.S. Copyright office.
First, I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV. Check with a Copyright lawyer for specifics on your situation. I merely want to give you a scenario that may prove it is worth the small $55.00 fee.
Let's start with the basics. If someone uses your work without your permission, you can only file an Infringement Action/Lawsuit in Federal Court if you have registered your work with the Copyright Office.
Next we have Evidence of Validity. Once you file an Infringement claim in court, you have to prove it's yours. Your registration will satisfy the basic level of proof of ownership. This doesn't guarantee your ownership, however, if forces the burden of proof onto the defendant to prove otherwise. Giving you a much stronger position in the eyes of the Court.
Third reason, and a very compelling one, is the ability to receive statutory damages and attorney fees. Without that registration, you cannot do that. My thinking is, if you steal my shit, I'm going to sue you, (Well, I'd like to it is very costly to sue for copyright infringement). Now, don't be thinking you are going to get a windfall, the statutory damages are usually a preset value.
The reasons above are very compelling reasons why you should register your work. Of course another one is it creates a record of ownership. Now this reason came in handy for something that I recently experienced.
My book 2 Confession of Sin was flagged and suppressed by the Validation Request team at CreateSpace. The email from CreateSpace stated I needed to prove I owned the work in question.
This is the acceptable forms of documentation for CreateSpace:
1. A signed letter of reversion from a publisher. (If previously published)
2. Publishing under a Pseudonym, please state that you own the rights of the content along with the Pseudonym used.
3. If you haven't published anywhere else please state that you own the right to the content you are publishing.
Now that doesn't seem like much. You just have to state you own it. I'm not sure if they require other information after you make your statement as to ownership, I don't know. I didn't have to go that far.
I had my Copyright document. Snapped a photo and emailed it. Done. It took less than 72 hours for the whole process. From the moment I received the email.
I have done some research and saw some forums where the statements alone weren't enough for proof, and they had to go through a few more steps. Time consuming steps. During this time, your book is suppressed. It is removed from all sales channels until the problem is resolved.
For some, that may be a very costly experience. For me, I was already in the process of resubmitting the covers for all my books, which may have been the catalyst that got my book suppressed in the first place.
For my book three, I have not received my document, but I do have the paid registration and the form that says the book has been submitted to the Copyright office.
Copyright Infringement is going to happen. Whether it happens to you or me, I don't know that. But I want to protect myself as much as I can.
I hope you consider paying the minor fee to protect your work.
Ultimately it is your choice.
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I write crime fiction horror, thriller, and paranormal novels. My time in the Coast Guard and my degree in Forensic Chemistry helps me create fantastic stories. If I'm not writing, I am binge watching Netflix and probably drinking whiskey.