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.

Registering Copyright

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.

17 Responses to “Should I Copyright My Book??”

  1. Somsy camvan says:

    I published two books with publish america, self publishing. Now I’m worrying someone might steal my idea. The reason, because after the books are published I send the synopsis, many of them to tradistional publishers and never get them back.

    Please help. I hope you not ask fee

    Somsy

  2. Hi Somsy,

    If you send a proposal with synopsis to a publisher without a stamped return address envelope, they just shred your letter. They do not have the funds to mail it back. I would not worry about them stealing your idea. Traditional publishers do not make a practice of violating copyright or it would cost them their business. If you have kept evidential items like I suggest, you should not have a problem.

    Suzanne

  3. So am I reading this correctly? If you put ©Joe Blow,2013 the work is now protected? Where does this need to be put on your book? Back cover, inside?
    Thanks
    Shirley

  4. Hi Shirley!
    You put the copyright at the top of the legal page (the page with your ISBN, CIP or LCC, publisher’s information, etc).

    It would say Copyright © 2013 Joe Blow. You might also want to put an “All rights reserved” paragraph under it to clarify rights. Email me for a sample at info@selfpublishing.ca.

    My book Self Publishing in Canada goes into detail about how to design the inside of your book, including the legal page. It is available in print or ebook.

    Cheers,
    Suzanne

  5. Israel says:

    Hi Suzanne,

    My wife is a self-published writer here in Spain. She’s written 5 novels so far, all of them registered under the intellectual property law we have here.

    If she were to translate her books and try to sell them in Canada, would it work the same way as if they were originally in english?

    Thank you!
    Israel

  6. HEllo,

    I have obtained an ISBN for my first book back in 2013, but did not publish it yet. I’m thinking of getting a copyright for it.
    1. What date do I have to use for the copyright? The book is written in Hungarian and I one of the film studios in Hungary want to turn it into a movie –
    2. do I have to get a separate copyright for Hungary and Canada?
    3. Can I write it in Hungarian?
    4. Should I self publish first before releasing it to the film studio?

    thank you so much,

    Warm regards,

    Beata

  7. Hi Israel,

    As long as your wife owns the copyright, she can translate them and sell them in Canada in print or as ebooks. They are her intellectual property to do with what she wants.

    Suzanne

  8. Hi Beata,

    You want the copyright date to be the date you actually publish or as close to it as possible. You should not have to have a separate copyright for Hungary as the one in Canada should protect your copyright in Europe. You can write your book in what ever language you wish. Canadian copyright legislation does not limit language. Talk to the studio about what they want. They may want a book out to promote the movie. In that case, you should self-publish. Purchase a copy of Self Publishing in Canada Second Edition to find out how.

    Regards,
    Suzanne

  9. William says:

    If you use a pen name, can you copyright under that name?

    copyright (symbol)2014 Pen Name

    And do you have to register the name somehow?

  10. I am looking to copyright and publish a children’s picture book. I have written the story but someone else will be drawing the pictures for it. It has yet to be published, as we are still in the early stages. I am trying to find answers to my possibly silly questions such as – Should there be 2 copyrights? The story is mine, but the drawings will be his. Or does the story and drawings go hand in hand and the one copyright will cover both of us? do authors and illustrators share a type of ‘ creative marriage’ under a copyright where they both must agree on the publishing of their joint work?

  11. Hi – Yes, there should be two copyrights. They should say “Text copyright (c) Year Author Name” and “Illustrations copyright (c) Year Illustrator Name.” It can be on the top two lines of the copyright page.

    Suzanne

  12. Hi Bill – You can register the copyright under your pen name. Just make sure you have a document stating that you are the same person as your alias.

  13. Christine Anderson says:

    I have written a book. I have the ISBN numbers. I now want to publish the book which has a new style of layout and words within that book, should I now copyright both book and the new layout style, I ask this as I plan to bring out a series of book in the same vein and layout style. thank you.

    CJA

  14. CJA – You can copyright the book but I don’t see the copyright office accepting the layout. What you are copyrighting is your work…your material. A new style of layout is considered the same as public domain. If you need more information, I suggest you see a lawyer that specializes in copyright.

    Suzanne

  15. Toni Williams says:

    Should I copyright my book before I self-publish?

  16. Hi Toni,

    If you are going to register copyright, you should do it before the book is printed. In Canada you register with the Canadian Copyright Office at http://www.cipo.ic.gc.ca.

  17. You should register copyright before the book is printed. In Canada register with the Canadian Copyright Office.

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