Self-Publishing 2021-2022: Copyright Registration

Welcome back to the Creative Life Adventure.

Screenshot of copyright registration

For self-published authors, registering your work with the U.S. Copyright Office can seem like a chore, and it’s not technically necessary, but it’s still something I recommend if at all possible. If you publish an original work, you are the copyright holder, regardless of registration, with or without a formal copyright notice in the document. However, theft of intellectual property, especially work published in digital format, is a widespread problem, particularly for independent authors. Holding a formal copyright registration can make your claim easier to defend in a worst-case scenario.

Screenshot of copyright registration

Copyright registration is a simple process, but it’s a bit tedious and not cheap – the registration fee is currently $65. After creating a free account at the web site, you simply answer a series of basic questions about yourself and your work. The site does require you to confirm your identity repeatedly, but many screens have a convenient “Add Me” checkbox to automatically fill in information you’ve already provided about yourself.

Screenshot of copyright registration

The final step online is to “Add to Cart” and “Checkout” to pay the registration fee. Depending on the nature of your work, however, you may not be finished. You must provide the Copyright Office with a copy of the “best version” of your book. If you’ve only published an ebook, you can simply upload an electronic copy of your book at no extra charge. If your book is published in print form, that is considered the “best version,” and you have to mail a copy. The Copyright Office web site will generate a shipping label for you to print, then you’ll have to incur the cost of mailing the book.

Screenshot of copyright registration with information about mailing your work

Current wait time for approval of copyright registration is over three months, so don’t expect immediate results. Also note that, to the best of my knowledge, there’s no way for independent authors to file for copyright prior to publication. You can also file for copyright on multiple online literary works, such as blog posts or articles, and this procedure is outlined on the Copyright Office web site.

This concludes my series of posts on my recent self-publishing experiences. If you’re an independent author, I hope this series has been helpful, and I wish you much good luck and success!

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