How to Copyright What You Write

If you are the author, you can copyright books, poems, directories, catalogs, pamphlets, leaflets, cards, single pages and publications such as newspapers, magazines, reviews, newsletters and bulletins. Also, scripts,, lectures, sermons, maps, monologs and cartoons. In essence, you can copyright almost anything that you write or draw, provided you comply with the following procedures.

  1. Produce Copies with Copyright Notice

    Produce the work in copies by printing or other means of reproduction. It is essential that all copies bear a copyright notice in the required form and position. As a general rule, the copyright notice should consist of three elements.

    • The word "copyright", the abbreviation "copy", or the symbol "c" printed within a circle. Use of the symbol may have advantages in securing copyright in countries that are members of the Universal Copyright Convention.

    • The name of the copyright owner (or owners).

    • The year date of publication. This is ordinarily the year in which copies are first placed on sale, sold, or publicly distributed by the copyright owner or under his authority.

    These elements should appear together on the copies.

    EXAMPLE: Copyright 1988 John Doe

    For a publication printed in book form, the copyright notice should appear on the title page or the page immediately following. The "page immediately following" is normally the reverse side of the page bearing the title.

  2. Publish the Work

  3. Register Your Claim in the Copyright Office

    Promptly after publication, you should send the following material to the Copyright Office.

    • Application for Registration. (For books, booklets, pamphlets, reports, etc., use form A).

    • Two copies of the edition of the work as published.

    • Registration fee of $10. Do not send cash. Payment must be in the form of a money order, check, or bank draft, payable to the "Registry of Copyrights" send everything to: Registry of Copyrights, Library of Congress, Washington DC 20540.

IMPORTANT: Copyright protection will be permanently lost unless all published copies bear a copyright in the form and position as described above. When a work has been published without notice of copyright, it falls into the public domain and becomes public property. After that happens, it serves no purpose to add the notice to copies of the work, and doing so may be illegal. For further information concerning copyright laws, write to the Registry of Copyrights (address above) for two free booklets - General Information on Copyright, Circular 1, and - Copyright Law of the United States of America, Circular 91. Also request several applications - Form Ae bearing the title.

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