How to register a copyright for your book?
One of the perks of self-publishing is that your book’s rights belong to you.
But how do you make sure your book’s copyright is really yours in the first place?
Copyright literally means “the right to copy.” Whoever holds it holds the right to publish, produce and reproduce a book. As an author who is either a citizen of Canada or currently residing in Canada, you hold the copyright of your work by virtue of having written it.
Although being the author of your book entitles you to the copyright, the fact that you wrote your book does not necessarily provide evidence of copyright. In other words: you wrote it, so the copyright technically belongs to you, but if someone were to contest you in court, it’s basically just your word against theirs unless you have evidence to back your claim.
Which is why it’s possible—and recommended—to register your published book’s copyright in your name.
Whether you’ve recently published a book or you’ve just put the finishing touches to your manuscript and are thinking of submitting it to publishing companies, there are two generally accepted ways of establishing evidence of copyright.
The poor man’s copyright
The unofficial way of establishing evidence of copyright, also known as “poor man’s copyright”, is to mail yourself a date-registered copy of your manuscript.
Seal a printed copy of your manuscript in an envelope, bring it to your local Canada Post office and have it mailed to your own address. Make sure the parcel is tracked and date-registered: the time-stamp provided by the postal service (an official government agency) is the crucial element in establishing ownership of your work on that specific date.
When you receive the time-stamped manuscript in the mail, don’t open it—tuck it away somewhere safe and make sure it stays sealed. Should the copyright of your work ever be contested in court, the sealed manuscript will provide dated evidence that the manuscript was in your possession as of the date it was mailed.
Registering a copyright for your book with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office
For those who like to do things the official way, it’s possible to register one’s copyright directly with the government. The legal jargon of Canada’s Copyright Act and the complicated maze of information that is the Government of Canada’s website make it seem more complicated than it is, but it’s actually quite simple.
In order to register a copyright, you’ll need to fill and mail this form. You don’t even need to send in your manuscript (they actually ask that you don’t, as they won’t have time to read it). It costs 130$ to register a copyright.
It’s even possible to register a copyright online. It’s faster and gets you a 15$ discount on application and processing fees.
ISBN, legal deposit and copyright
Many authors ask us if getting an ISBN or making a legal deposit constitute evidence of copyright. The short answer: they do not.
An ISBN is a unique identifier that allows your book to be tracked through whatever sales channels you’re using to sell your book. Getting an ISBN for your book does not equal registering for copyright. (Read this article from our blog to learn more about ISBNs and how to get one.)
The same goes for legal deposits. A legal deposit means involves submitting a copy of your book to be included in Canada’s cultural heritage. As with the poor man’s copyright, a legal deposit does provide evidence that the work was in your possession at the moment of registering the legal deposit. However, it doesn’t substitute the registration of a copyright.
So, if you’re short on cash and in a rush, starting by mailing a copy of your manuscript to yourself might help you sleep sounder at night. However, once you have the time and a bit of disposable cash, it’s definitely worth registering a copyright for your book the official way. It’s cheap and surprisingly painless. Not to mention priceless, if you consider the peace of mind it affords.
A Guide to Canadian Copyright: http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/cipointernet-internetopic.nsf/eng/h_wr02281.html
Application Form for Registration of a Copyright in a Work: https://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/cipointernet-internetopic.nsf/vwapj/DA-CR-form1-eng.pdf/$file/DA-CR-form1-eng.pdf
Registering a copyright for your book online – step-by-step instructions: https://www.wikihow.com/Copyright-in-Canada
Thanks a lot for this information, it is very useful.
Simply educational, but seriously invaluable!
Can a writer copyright a book of short stories , of does each story require a registered copyright?
A copyright applies to all the content inside of a book, so each story doesn’t need its own registered copyright.
Can I obtain copyright before the manuscript is edited or does it have to be published first?
You can definitely obtain a copyright before the manuscript is edited or published. In this case, the copyright will include the right to publish the work or any substantial part of it.
Is it necessary to copyright your book in the United States as well?
It isn’t mandatory, no.
Here is where you can find more information about copyright in the US.
If my book is translated in other languages or if different formats are used (book, e-book etc) do I need a separate copyright for each language and for each format? Or registering copyright for my original english book is good encough?
Registering a copyright of the original version of your content is good enough.
If you need more information on this topic, here is a forum on which experienced professionals have been discussing it in depth: Does the copyright of a book extend to any and all foreign languages into which the book might be translated in the future?.
I have found a copyright example online, can I just add that into the book? Or does it need to be registered in order to be valid? (In canada)
You can totally add a copyright notice found online in your book. But if you haven’t at least used the “poor man’s copyright” presented in this article and the copyright of your work is ever contested in court, it will only be your word against theirs.
Hi, I am going to register my book for copyright in Canada. Do I have to do this in other countries as well? Or does having it copyrighted in Canada mean that it’s good for the entire planet? Thanks!
No, you don’t have to register your book for copyright in several countries. Although there isn’t an official international copyright law that applies in all the countries of the world, copyrights are guaranteed by different international treaties and conventions (the Berne Convention being the most commonly cited).
If you want to learn more, here is an interesting article on that topic: International Copyright Protection: What’s an author to do?
I’m going to register my manuscript/book for copyright (in Canada). If I do this before contacting publishers will that complicate things? How? Would this be beneficial for me?
Registering your manuscript for copyright before contacting agents or publishers shouldn’t complicate anything.
Here are two articles addressing that specific topic:
If it’s a digital book, can you still use the poor man’s copyright?
If there are colours and images in the manuscript, do I have to print it out in colour also to use the “poor man’s” method?
The poor man’s copyright method establishes that a material/content has been in one’s possession since a particular time. So yes, it can also be used even if the book is a digital one.
If images are part of the material you wish to protect through that method, then yes printing them in colour is recommended.