When it comes to literary copyright is there are several things that you want to know. Lots of people worry when they start sharing their work as a writer that it is going to get co-opted by someone else and published under their name. That’s why they are often unwilling to share their work in writing workshops or online for fear that someone that they’ve asked for a critique from will try to pass off their work as their own. But that is unlikely to happen and the reasons for that have to do with understanding literary copyright.
Do You Actually Have to Register a Copyright?
The truth is you do not actually have to register a copyright for your book or short story in order to for it to be yours. As soon as your short story or novel is published to some medium, whether that be through a traditional publisher or through any of the independent publishing platforms that are out there, your work is automatically copyrighted. You do not even have to put the word copyrighted on the page anywhere. In fact, when you send your work to an editor or agent, anywhere in the USA from an editor in New York to an illustrator in Los Angeles they will often see this as the work of an amateur since they know that your work is protected. You can even email your short story or novel to yourself or uploaded to Google drive or some other medium and that will allow you to prove that it is your work as well.
What Are the Benefits of Registering a Copyright Anyway?
If you choose to pursue going after an official copyright anyway there are a few benefits that can be derived from it. Essentially, you will be getting what is called a super copyright. When your work is published by traditional book publisher, you’re going to get a copyright anyway because that is how publishers do business and how lawyers recommend that they go about it. Formally registering a copyright definitely would give you leverage in court if someone were ever to try to claim that your work is there. If you have an official copyright and you see someone for plagiarism, then the damages and compensation that you received could be greater because of the fact that you have an official copyright. You shouldn’t have to worry about any legitimate editors or agents trying to plagiarize material. Sometimes other writers do this, but almost never has an editor or agent that is legitimate been accused of this.
What about a “Poor Man’s Copyright”?
You may have heard of the poor man’s copyright when you mail something to yourself in order to prove that it is yours. This used to be done through the snail mail process. However, today you can just as easily get the same sort of copyright by uploading your work to something like Google drive or by simply emailing it to yourself. This proves that it is your work at a particular date stamp.