That Is the Question

file-20170818-7937-1mb0d7kIf you read the subject, you’re probably wondering what is the question. Here it is. To copyright? Or not to copyright? That is the question.

This may not seem like an important question, but it truly is. That pretty little symbol © is more than just a symbol and if it doesn’t have the certificate the copyright.gov sends out, it pretty much means jack. Let me break this down a little.

You’ve labored weeks, months, maybe even years over your work. You slaved away at a computer writing that bad boy, editing it to perfection (as much as possible), and now you’re ready to publish. DON’T PUSH THE BUTTON YET.novel

For you to understand how important a copyright is, I’m going to give you two scenarios. One you’ve sent your baby to the copyright office and the other you haven’t.

Scenario A: Copyrighted

You’re reading a book in your genre trying to keep up with the latest trends. And you notice that part of it sounds familiar. Maybe immediately you can’t figure out why, but at some point you realize it’s familiar because YOU wrote it. The words in the book you’re reading written by some other author are YOUR words. 

What do you do?

First, check their publication date. Second, check to see if they have a copyright symbol in their book. Third, go to the copyright.gov website and search for said copyright. If either they have no copyright filed OR their copyright was filed after yours, you have options. 

  1. Politely point out the usage and send them a “cease and desist” letter forcing them to remove their work.
  2. Contact an Intellectual Property attorney who specializes in copyright. 

copyrightBy your copyright being filed first, it is proof that YOU are the original owner. You have the right to have that work removed or even sue that author if they did not get your permission to use your words in their work. This is called copyright infringement and is illegal.

This is only accurate if MORE than a few lines or words of yours are in their book. IF they have only used a word or line or two, this is called fair use. There is a limit to the amount of sentences and/or wording that may be used.

This does NOT apply to an idea. An idea or concept cannot be copyrighted.

Scenario B: Not copyrighted

Using the same scene as before, if your work is NOT copyrighted, and you come across another novel with your words, you can still politely ask that author to remove their work.

However, they do not have to comply. 

If they have a copyright and you ask them to remove their work because they infringed upon your work without your permission, they in turn can ask you to remove your work stating just the opposite. They could go a step further and obtain a lawyer to sue you or get your work removed.

protect-yourself-rubber-stamp-vector-13678614
Courtesy of VectorStock

Let’s explore this a step further and say that neither of you have your work copyrighted. IF you see that, then file for the copyright BEFORE reaching out to the author. While it takes months to get a copyright approved, the copyright is valid from the date your file is loaded and the fee is paid.

You can request a copyright to be expedited, but it does cost more money and does require a valid reason for the request.

A copyright is your protection. This is another step in the writing process that should NOT be skipped. It may be the best money you ever spend.