The Biggest Copyright Mistake Authors Make

What's that mistake? Getting intimidated.

I'm just about to launch my first novel, and while my editor was hard at work putting the finishing touches on my manuscript, I had a list of tasks as well.Looming at the top of my list was Get a Copyright.

Now until recently, here is where I fell into the trap that is hard for authors to avoid: Intimidation. I am not an attorney, and reading legal content intimidates me, so when faced with the pages of legalese that I found online, I cringed and delayed getting my copyright. I was heartened by the Bitlaw articles claiming that my work didn't need to display a copyright protection notice to be protected, but quickly got lost in the morass of information that followed. I clicked on the US Copyright Office's handbook, only to discover that it was almost 400 pages of the densest legal text I'd ever seen.

I threw up my hands, went to and was ready to pay upwards of $114 for them to supply me with the necessary documents and file them for me. What would I get from LegalZoom in return? A letter stating they'd filed my form and submitted my manuscript. Okay, that would be reassuring.

I mentioned this plan to a friend of mine who is a lawyer and guess what?  I don't need LegalZoom. Here's all I did to successfully file my book's copyright:

1) Go to the US Copyright Office website 
2) Click Register a Copyright
2) Fill out and submit the electronic version of Form TX (for Literary works)*
3) Entered my credit card for $35
4) Uploaded my manuscript

Within minutes I had a confirmation e-mail from the US Copyright office stating my documents had been received and I will receive my copyright in a few months once the process is complete.

The website has lots of frequently asked questions, and the form has line by line instructions. Which I followed carefully, but I was surprised that I had all the information I needed right in my head. Other than getting my credit card out of my wallet, I didn't have to look anything up.

Now perhaps I will copyright that cool photo of my cat that got so many 'likes' on Facebook, or maybe I'll write a song and copyright it just because I can and it's legal and it's affordable, and I don't need any middleman like Zoom.

And as in the interest of full disclosure, I have nothing against Zoom. I even drive a Mazda.


* When to Use This Form: Use Form TX for registration of published or unpublished nondramatic literary works, excluding periodicals or serial issues. This class includes a wide variety of works: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, textbooks, reference works, directories, catalogs, advertising copy, compilations of information, and computer programs.


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