17 August 2017

Special Guest Post by Dave Chesson: Book Copyright - A Matter Of Life And Death?

Book Copyright - A Matter Of Life And Death?

Just as those who don’t learn history are doomed to repeat it, writers who don’t learn from the mistakes of others are doomed to repeat them.

One of the most valuable sources of information when I started out writing was the advice and ideas of others writers. Whether in-person or online, I gladly sought lessons to inform my own writing career.

Naturally, I still made my fair share of mistakes along the way. One of the most serious was failing to understand the importance of copyright. Whereas most writing mistakes are a matter of style and technique, copyright is something with potentially serious financial implications.

We’ll now explore a brief history of copyright before looking at how you can protect your own work as a writer.

Have you heard the story of St. Columba and St. Finian?  St. Columba was a studious monk who borrowed and copied a Bible from St. Finian without having the proper permission to do so. Of course, ‘copy’ in this era literally meant transcribing by hand.

In spite of the painstaking work of St. Columba, motivated not by financial gain but a desire to share with others, St. Finian demanded that the copy created be handed over to him, as he owned the rights to the original.

The High King of Ireland heard both sides of the story and sided with St. Finian. Despite St. Columba’s protests that no harm had resulted from his copying of the book, the King ruled that St. Finian owned the right to the copy as he owned the original.

This was the start of a chain of events which led to the Battle of Cul Dreimhne, the death of 3000 people, and the exile of St. Columba.

Book Copyright In The Modern Era

While book copyright in this day and age is unlikely to lead to war and exile, it’s still a serious matter worthy of your attention.

If you fail to protect your book properly, you will have a far tougher time if someone plagiarizes your work and sells it on as their own. You will also struggle if a modern day St. Columba decides to share your work freely with others, even if it isn’t for financial gain.

So how exactly do you copyright your work? Thankfully, it’s fairly simple, and there are a few options at your disposal.

The Essential Elements Of Copyright

To create a legally valid copyright page for your book, all you really need are two things -

1. Statement of copyright
2. Statement of ‘all rights reserved’

These two elements vary in complexity but are legally valid even in a very simple form.

At its most basic, your statement of copyright should include either the word copyright itself or the copyright symbol, the year in which your book is published and your name or the name that is valid for copyright purposes.

For example, ‘Copyright 2017 Joe Jones’ is a valid copyright statement. You can use a pen name or company name in lieu of your real name if it is more appropriate to do so.

To state all rights reserved can be as simple as writing “All Rights Reserved”. You will sometimes come across more complex statements expanding on this basic concept and explicitly stating various rights, but this is by no means necessary.

The above is all that you need for your book’s copyright page to be legally valid. However, you will often see other, optional elements listed, which we’ll now explore.

Optional Elements Of Copyright

You will often see, and may wish to include, any or all of the following elements on a copyright page -

Information relating to publisher such as address and contact details
Any trademarks found in the book, such as logos
The edition of the book
Any legal disclaimers

Legal advice related to trademarks and disclaimers is outside of the scope of this article so you should seek qualified, specialist advice if you need to in these areas.

Whether or not you need an ISBN for your work depends upon a number of factors. If you use a service such as Createspace, you will automatically be given an ISBN. If you wish to purchase an ISBN yourself, you can do so here.

Copyright Recap

Putting hours of effort into researching and writing a book is no small labour. Your work therefore deserves to be protected in the best way possible. By following the advice found here, you can ensure that your book is legally protected should the worst happen and someone plagiarizes you.

If you have any other historical anecdotes about book copyright, I’d love to hear them in the comments. Also feel free to share any personal stories or experiences you have had with copyrighting your work.

Dave Chesson

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About the Author

Dave Chesson is a master Jedi at book marketing and the author of Kindlepreneur.  To succeed in today’s competitive kindle business, you need to be part  writer and part marketer.  His website on self-publishing is devoted to  helping you with the latter. Find out more at Kindlepreneur.com and find Dave on Facebook and Twitter @DaveChesson.

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