I am often asked about Copyright. Writers are fearful that someone is going to steal their work. In today’s post, I’ll talk about Copyright and how to register.
To Copyright or not to Copyright?
One of the first things new authors ask is how to copyright their material. It is not necessary to register the copyright in order to have protection in Canada. The symbol, author name and year give protection. Many authors want to register their book because they want the certificate that is issued. Some authors think that you should do this as a matter of course. Others believe that if your work is available only in Canada or your province or just your local community, that the expenditure is not necessary. Like many aspects of self-publishing, this is a personal decision.
Copyright protection begins when the work is created and ends 50 years after the death of the creator. It lasts for the lifetime of the author. It can be sold or gifted, which is why it is important for authors to read the fine print in contracts to ensure they are not giving away their copyright. Never assign your copyright to a publisher, whether it be trade or subsidy. Copyright can also we willed to your heirs. This means that authors need to make sure their will is updated every time they create a new work and register it.
If you decide to register copyright of your book, you will also want to make sure you keep proof of your work. This is done so that your claim of original work has something to back it up. If there is ever a dispute about who created the work, it may end up in court. You will need evidence from those who saw the work in progress and previous drafts of your work. Some of the evidential items you might want to have would include the following:
- Dated drafts and outlines
- Dated research records used to create the work
- Names of those you shared the work with at different stages
- Written records of any agreements made concerning creation of material or ownership of copyright material
Mailing a registered copy of the manuscript to yourself is not sufficient proof that the work is yours. Do not let anyone tell you it is acceptable because it is not.
The Canadian Copyright Office is handled by the federal government’s Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO). You can register either online, by fax or by snail mail. The form is on the website at http://cipo.ic.gc.ca. The cost is $50.00 if you pay online with a credit card or $65.00 if you pay by any other method.
What Moral Rights means to you
Moral rights mean that the work cannot be changed to detract from the author’s relationship to that work, even if the copyright is owned by someone else. In other words, if someone else uses your material, even legally, they cannot change it from your original intent. These rights preserve the integrity of the work and no one, including the copyright holder if that is not the creator, can alter, distort or mutilate the work.
You are the creator. If you intend a work to be a discussion about immigration for example, no one can change the work (or the words you have written in the way you have written them) to make the work seem like a racist commentary. Anymore than a gallery can alter an artist’s painting, no one can alter your work.
Moral rights are always held by the author of a work regardless of who owns the copyright. Canada recognizes these rights in its Copyright Act. NO ONE can change what you have written except yourself. This gives the creator a lot of empowerment when it comes to their work.