Showing posts with label copyright. Show all posts
Showing posts with label copyright. Show all posts

Authors: Why You Should Register Copyrights


Contributed by Margot Conner

Many writers are comfortable with the idea that copyrights are assigned to you as soon as you put your name to it. That is all fine as long as no one decides you are some little-known author, and they can copy your words into their own story. There are well-documented cases of this.

Unfortunately, you don’t own the legal right to use, possess, and give away the material you wrote unless it is registered with the copyright office. If you want undisputed ownership, in case of plagiarism, and the right to seek legal action in a court of law, you need to register a copyright with the Library of Congress.

This guarantees the return of your intellectual property if stolen. Or, in the case of its destruction, payment for it. It also gives you the possibility to prove you were the one who wrote it if someone else claims they are the author.

But here is the kicker… if an imposter goes to the U.S. Copyright Office before the true author and registers the work in their name, the true author will have to sue to invalidate the imposter's copyright. This is nearly impossible to win and would be very costly.

The "ownership" myth was destroyed in U.S. Supreme Court when the Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corporation went up against WallStreet dot com in 2019. The outcome: an author cannot sue for copyright infringement unless their work has first been registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. Unless the work is registered you can't even sue to make someone take down the material they have plagiarized.

It doesn’t matter if you can prove you wrote something. Infringement on your rights is allowed. This court case effectively did away with the "copyright when you write it" concept that most authors believe in. If you cannot stop someone from plagiarizing your intellectual property the unregistered copyright means nothing.

Under section 506, criminal copyright infringement must demonstrate a valid copyright was infringed upon willfully and for the purposes of commercial or private financial gain.

OK, filing for a copyright can get expensive. But it is less costly than losing what you wrote or fighting a court battle that is maybe impossible to win without having that legal copyright.

I found a few ways to save money. If your writing a series, and you have the ability to wait until you complete all the books, then there is one cost to copyright them as a group, all at once. Otherwise, it will cost you $65 each time. 

You can register for a copyright at the Library of Congress:

This is my best advice: You will have lower fees for copyright if you belong to either the writer’s or authors' guild. They will also help authors in many other ways. I believe that the fee is between $10 and $25 to copyright through the Guilds.

Authors Guild: $135 a year, or $12 a month to be a member

•    Legal services
•    Free access to seminars, workshops and events
•    Resources list
•    Media insurance
•    Many others, including web services

The Emerging Writer level membership gives you a lot of bang for your buck and it takes much less to qualify. This membership level is only $9 (but no legal advice).

•    Traditionally published authors and illustrators with at least 1 published book in the U.S.
•    Self-published authors who have made at least $5,000 in the past 18 months from their writing
•    Freelance writers who have published 3+ pieces or made $5,000 in the past 18 months

Writers Guild: (expensive)

The Writers Guild is a labor union for film, radio, and television writers, composed of The Writers Guild of America East and The Writers Guild of America West. Both sites have much more in-depth information available, including eligibility requirements and dues.

Examples of Why You Should Register for Copyright of Your Work

Just to bring home the need for copyrights, take the following examples to heart.

Many famous authors who have the money to pay a good legal team get away with theft. Or the Publishers do. And some who plagiarize still go on to be successful, because their misdeeds are simply forgotten.

These examples were copied from several places. Source credits are in brackets.

Dan Brown: “The Da Vinci Code”
In 2006, Brown was accused of plagiarism by Richard Leigh and Michael Baigent. Then in 2007 author Jack Dunn sued Brown. The author went on to sue Brown for plagiarism two more times.

Alex Haley: “Roots: The Saga of An American Family”
Alex Haley won the Pulitzer Prize in 1977 for his book. In 1978 Harold Courlander accused Haley of plagiarizing content from his book, “The African.” Haley ended up agreeing that he did use passages from Courlander’s book. The case was settled out of court.

J.K. Rowling: “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”
Rowling was accused of plagiarizing parts of Adrian Jacob’s book, “The Adventures of Willy the Wizard.” The case was dismissed.
Then, “US author Nancy Stouffer alleged Rowling had taken material from her book The Legend of Rah and the Muggles, but without success.”

Johnny Cash: “Folsom Prison Blues”
"Cash had lifted the melody from and much of the lyrics from a 1953 song “Crescent City Blues” by Gordon Jenkins." The case was settled for $75,000.
(Source:“On February 19, 1981, ib/AL01901374/Centricity/Domain/739/Johnny%20Cash.pdf )

George Harrison: “My Sweet Lord”
In 1971, Harrison was sued for “subconsciously plagiarizing’: The Chiffons‘ 1963 hit single ‘He’s So Fine.’
After a court battle, “Harrison was found guilty and had to pay $1,599,987 of the earnings from ‘My Sweet Lord’ to Bright Tunes.”


Of course, there are other cases where someone becomes very successful and false claims are made to gain a big undeserved sum in a bogus court case. But even the unjustly accused will lose if they must spend their time to prove they are the rightful owner.

This happened to Taylor Swift recently. The case was thrown out of court. That is the other side of the coin. The lawsuit can be costly and stall a project. Being on either side is a waste of your time and money, so try to avoid all that stress by protecting yourself.


Margot Conor has been writing for as long as she can remember, but it wasn't until the COVID lock-down that she had enough time to dedicate to the craft and bring something to completion. Having finished her first novel, she went through the grueling two-year process of editing. Now she has jumped into the author's world with both feet. She's preparing to debut her first novel, which means learning how to promote it. The last year has been spent attending many writing retreats, seminars, and writers' events. She also listened to presentations specifically on the topic of publishing and book marketing. She will be sharing what she learns with the reader.
You can learn more about Margot and her writing at her Facebook page:
@MargotConor (Facebook)

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