Copyright v Publication
April 29, 2019 8:49 AM   Subscribe

I have submitted a book to a publisher for publication. I also submitted the manuscript and cover to the US Copyright Office. The publisher will be finished printing the book in seven weeks. The Copyright Office will be finished reviewing the book in 4 months. Do I need to stop the publisher or does the Copyright Office review continue and this disparity is normal?
posted by CollectiveMind to Writing & Language (10 answers total)
Just a quick couple of questions: Since you submitted the manuscript to the US Copyright Office, I assume you live in the US? Also, are you paying the publisher anything?
posted by Mogur at 9:04 AM on April 29

In any case, the US Copyright Office itself notes that "Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.", so your book is already copyrighted. The Office itself seems to be a convenience to make lawsuits easier. Are you expecting a lawsuit?
posted by Mogur at 9:08 AM on April 29 [6 favorites]

The copyright date is as of creation. The copyright office will give you proof vis-a-vis date of submission. But seriously, what are you afraid of? Pirating books is not really a thing. The whole copyright system for books is largely a formality. It's a protection that's only used in rare cases, and a reputable publisher will handle copyright protection for its authors.
posted by rikschell at 9:10 AM on April 29 [4 favorites]

The whole copyright system for books is largely a formality. It's a protection that's only used in rare cases

This is very true. Your work has copyright (that is, you are seen as the owner of the item and can go after others who may infringe) as soon as it's "fixed" in a tangible form which would mean epub or print or whatever. From their FAQ

Do I have to register with your office to be protected?

No. In general, registration is voluntary. Copyright exists from the moment the work is created. You will have to register, however, if you wish to bring a lawsuit for infringement of a U.S. work. See Circular 1, Copyright Basics, section “Copyright Registration.”
posted by jessamyn at 9:22 AM on April 29 [6 favorites]

Congratulations. The submission documents the creation, and, to some extent, the date of creation.
posted by theora55 at 10:13 AM on April 29 [1 favorite]

Isn't there a caveat to all of the above statements, that the work cannot be derived from another copyrighted work?
posted by XMLicious at 12:36 PM on April 29

It looks like you have a three-month window to register: 17 U.S. Code § 412. Registration as prerequisite to certain remedies for infringement.

However, it looks like the "effective date" is backdated to when the Copyright Office received the materials (assuming a complete application): Findlaw: Effective Date of Registration also Circular 1.

I also disagree that copyright for books is irrelevant. There's a growing trend for counterfeit books, and academic publishers take things like courspacks and unauthorized PDF distribution of books very seriously. But that's a question you should probably ask your publisher about.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 1:14 PM on April 29

You might find Why Not to Register Copyright for Unpublished Work (2013 piece from Writer Beware) helpful for background.
posted by readinghippo at 2:18 PM on April 29

The disparity is normal. The Copyright Office's timeframe shouldn't matter to the normal business of betting the book published; as others have pointed out, the important dates (for most purposes) are when you wrote the book and when you sent in the application for registration.

And while copyright protection does take effect from the moment of fixation, I don't know why you wouldn't want to register a soon-to-be-published book. The Writer Beware piece is geared more towards people who are much, much farther from publication than you seem to be.

Also, the "various legal benefits" regarding registration (which the Writer Beware piece glosses over) include being able to get statutory damages and legal fees in any infringement suit, which is a significant benefit. Since you're getting the book published, registration seems like a pretty good idea.

This is true even (maybe *especially*) if you want to be able to distribute the book under a Creative Commons or similar license. It gives you more options in legal representation--if someone's infringing your work, and you don't want to sock it to them, just get a court to get them to stop, a lawyer who can get their fees recouped from the defendant is more likely to take the case.

All of that in the previous 2 paragraphs may be a pretty remote possibility, but in the meantime, the costs of registration seem to be minimal in comparison, in most cases (of a nearly-published book).

And congratulations!
posted by pykrete jungle at 3:00 PM on April 29

The Supreme Court ruled in March that plaintiffs didn't have standing for most claims until they got proof of registration. So while unregistered work is technically protected, there is not much you can do about it without filing.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 6:46 PM on April 29

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