M. A. Granovsky’s “Poison Pill.” It’s the drug of the century, a miracle weight loss compound worth billions, invented by Jon Vickers shortly before his death. So why is Jon’s brother Benedict risking his own life to keep the drug from the market? In a world where money rules, does truth stand a chance?
In a blog yesterday, we discussed how legalities are something you may have to be aware of if you self-publish. This is something something authors who publish through traditional publishing houses tend not to think about. Publishing houses employ or retain their own legal counsel, meaning historically, authors haven’t had to bother fretting over legal issues.
While most legal issues arise out of the use of copyrighted materials — images, likenesses, ideas, names, brands, and other intellectual property, etc. — many authors overlook the importance of copyrighting their own works.
Legally speaking, you already own the copyright to your book the moment you start typing. However, we highly recommend taking the additional step of registering your book with the United States Copyright Office. This gives you as an author additional legal protections in the event that large portions of your work are pirated. The USCO’s fees are very reasonable and you can now file copyright claims electronically if you submit in the proper USCO formats.
Think of it as a “receipt” of sorts. If your work is stolen or portions of it are copied without your approval, registration with the Copyright Office serves as your proof that you originated the idea. Without registration, all you may be able to prove is that you were first to publish it — and that may not be sufficient to protect you if someone else profits from your ideas.
Please note that copyrighting and trademarking are different. Book names are not copyrightable, but you can choose to trademark-protect certain content to protect yourself from pirating related to related merchandise, such as T-shirts, action figures or other book memorabilia. That’s an entirely different ball of wax, and a matter for which you’d be well advise to contact a trademark attorney.
If you’re new to self-publishing, you can get some beginner guidance from Outskirts Press CEO Brent Sampson in his book, Publishing Gems: Insider Information for the Self-Publishing Writer. The book touches upon some of the issues discussed here, and is a good general primer for first-time writers, or experienced writers who want a smoother publishing process.
Of course, there’s no way to adequately cover legal issues on this forum. However, if you ever have doubts about the legality of your material, consult an attorney. For minor issues, your Personal Marketing Assistant may be able to point you in the right direction.