Since the Copyright Amendment Act of 1989, all books written in the U.S. are protected by a copyright from the moment of their creation. This law applies to both published and unpublished books. Authors simply put a copyright symbol (©) or the word copyright on their work, followed by the year written, and they are protected by law. Applying for a copyright from the Copyright Office at the Library of Congress, however, gives writers even more protection. It is a simple process that requires filling out a form, copies of the book, and paying a fee. U.S. copyright laws are inclusive as they are recognized by over 70 countries around the world.
Since a book is automatically covered before publication, writers may consider waiting until publication to copyright a book. This is often the case because a new copyright is necessary if a work is published, to replace the one that had been on the unpublished work. In the end, waiting until publication frequently saves both time and money.
All necessary forms can be found at the U.S. Copyright Office's official website. To copyright a book, writers will need the TX form. It is also important to note that periodicals or serials have a different form, called SE. When seeking an official copyright after publication, two bound copies — not photocopies — of the book are needed. Authors are also not allowed to use pseudonyms or remain anonymous when applying for a copyright.
Once completed, the forms should be mailed to the proper office. It is possible to apply for a copyright on an official website. When applications are submitted in this way, applicants generally receive an email to acknowledge receipt of the forms. When paperwork is mailed, applicants will not receive a receipt of arrival.
When authors seek to copyright a book, the title is not protected property under copyright law. In other words, the same title and topic can be used by another writer. A copyright does not protect the idea itself, but the specific way words are used.
Individuals trying to copyright a book that pertains to their profession may have to credit their employers. For example, if a professor writes a book on the subject matter that he teaches, he will have to credit the college or university he works for when seeking a copyright. In some instances, employment contracts will state that all works produced while employed are property of the employer.
Once an official copyright is obtained for a book, it is recognized for the entire lifetime of the author, plus 70 years after his death. With well-known books, the author’s estate often has rights to a book even after the 70 years has expired. After a copyright has ended, ownership rights are auctioned to the highest bidder.