I spent a few hours researching copyright, and figured out a few things:
• I didn’t understand it
• I’m not qualified to give advice on this topic (This is not legal advice )
So I then spent a few more hours, over the course of a week. And finally, I came to this conclusion:
- I still don't understand it
- Seriously. This is complicated. I am not a lawyer.
- It costs $35-$55 to copyright my work, so what the hell. May as well copyright it!
Conclusion: At the end of this process, I realized I did not know enough to gamble on this decision. I decided I would make it a business rule to always copyright my work. That way I’d be prepared when one of my stories takes off. I mean, it’s $35 ($55 for a collection of stories). I see this as a protection of my investments. When in doubt, prepare for success.
- Who sells ebooks besides Amazon?
- How much does it cost?
- Do I need a bank account, EIN or DBA?
- Do I need a ISBN? Mostly not. To control my book's message, here's why I did buy ISBNs.
- Do I need copyright?
- Do I have the rights to my work?
- What about previously published work? Find Contracts! So usually, you retain reprint rights.
- How do you format an ebook?
- Do I need a print book?
Before I tell you about how I came to this conclusion, here is a disclaimer. I’m not a lawyer. In fact, I spent only a few days researching this. So I’m not even pretending to give legal advice here. This is not legal advice. Instead, I suggest that you use what I’m telling you as a starting point for your own investigation. If someone comes calling about one of your stories, hire a lawyer! As a wise man once said "Protek Ya neck!". Wait, no, that was Method Man.
When I started, I knew almost nothing about copyright. After a few hours, I knew slightly more than nothing (My knowledge was equivalent to a few hydrogen atoms coalescing in the empty void). At first, I thought I automatically had copyright to any work I create. So paying the government is silly. It's just a money grab. Safety is for suckers. I don't have to register!! And I was right about that. However…
Any infringement case I bring to court will be stronger if I enact stronger copyright protections by registering. Additionally, any settlement will be [potentially] more extensive, if I register my copyright. And, should you wish, you can register copyright online, by yourself, on copyright.gov’s eCo system. They may require either an electronic version (upload) or print version(s) of your work.
Also, there is a possibility someone you negotiate with could register copyright on your work (claiming a verbal contract), thus gaining ownership of your property. Spooky. Scary. I needed more information.
The next step was to research copyright law. Hell, I had an hour, how hard could it be? Here is where I looked for information:
The first stop was the official U.S. government website for information on copyright. Copyright.gov has useful FAQs and Circulars that explain copyright. I would note that there are 1,182 pages of compendium practices, and beneath that document, there are a few asterisks that say it’s not complete, and there are exceptions via interim rules. If I’m not going to read all those regulations, then I am going to admit that I need to farm out some of this work. So almost immediately, I think of creating a business rule to always copyright, and always consult with a lawyer in any negotiation. But I want to do a little more research...
I read Circular 1 and Circular 7 a few times to get the gist of what I should be doing. I laughed out loud when I read the copyright.gov answer to a faq question “How do I copyright my sighting of Elvis”. See, government employees are human, just like you. I downloaded and printed a few circulars, then I went looking on the wider web.
Next was to gather up some resources. I purchase two books on copyright, both by NOLO. The first is called “Patent, Copyright, & Trademark”. That is useful, and I’ll have to come back to it periodically as I learn new things. The second was “Copyright for Writers” which I am still waiting for as it is being shipped from Mongolia apparently. I hope the second book helps explain some terms I have seen in publishing contracts.
Third, was a cautious search of the internet. I found a few blog posts by the generous and wonderful Kristine Kathryn Rusch (https://kriswrites.com/2017/10/25/business-musings-stealing-intellectual-property/). She offers these posts for free, but you should support her if you are able, via a donation, or better, by buying her books. I like her Diving series for scifi. I don’t know her, or anyone at NOLO, and these aren’t affiliate links. Straight up.
After reading and considering her blogs and the copyright book and the circulars, I decided to copyright my first ebook. It took me about an hour to get through the paperwork (electronically, I mean). I was mystified to find out that a collection of short stories is considered differently than a novel. I _think_ that is true, but I’m not 100% certain (I am not a lawyer, so I can’t really tell you). At any rate, this eCo process (using the electronic copyright system) was painless. I paid the fee with a credit card, and await final determination in about 6-10 months. If I move to a print version and ebook, then (I think) I'll submit two copies of the print book to fulfill the copyright registration*.
*Did you notice I was uncertain here. That’s because I am not a lawyer, and this may be completely the wrong thing to do. So I’m just telling you what I did. This is not legal advice, please do your own diligent research. Go to copyright.gov and read the Circulars.
So that was my first foray into copyright. I came out of that particular underworld with a business rule to be safe, and not sorry. The costs of being safe is low ($35 = 1 cheap dinner out), and I will consult with a lawyer as needed (at a higher cost).
Every new business has dozens of processes to attend to, not all of which can be mastered immediately. It's your business. You must decide how much time and depth of understanding you need. My decision here (early on) is to always copyright my work, and consult with my lawyer for any negotiation regarding copyright.
Copyright 2018 E.C.Stever