Copyrighting Your Ebook

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A lot of people are curious about how to claim copyright on the book they’re working on.

At least for the United States, it’s easy: you don’t need to do anything!  You automatically own the copyright to works you create.  By creating the book on LiberWriter, and then submitting it to Amazon’s KDP, you also have evidence that it’s yours.

So what about formally registering it with the US government?  That’s actually pretty easy too.  You can do it all online, via this web site: http://www.copyright.gov/

Specifically, it costs $35 for “online registration of a basic claim in an original work of authorship (electronic filing)”, according to this page http://www.copyright.gov/docs/fees.html .

Something worth considering, though, is that the government isn’t going to do much to get people to take down pirated copies of your book; you’d most likely have to bring a civil suit against an infringer.  That is likely going to cost a lot more than your $35 fee, and is also going to be something of a game of whack-a-mole in any case – if you manage to shut down the guy in Kansas with a pirated copy on his site, some other guy in Russia or Thailand is going to pop up and be a lot tougher to shut down.  By paying the fee and registering your book, you are entitled to punitive damages, and the other party paying your legal fees, but you’d still be out a lot of time and hassle to bring a case to court.  With or without registering your work,  you can send a DMCA takedown notice.  Here’s one example of how to do so: http://ipwatchdog.com/2009/07/06/sample-dmca-take-down-letter/id=4501/ – of course that’s only valid in the United States, and pirated content may well reside on servers in other countries.

One of the good things about how Amazon handles ebooks is that it’s pretty easy to do the right thing – people the world over can buy your books for very reasonable prices with very little hassle.  Compare this to TV shows or movies, which those of you in the US can watch without problems via services like Netflix, but are simply not available abroad, even for those who are willing to pay, which means that either not seeing the movie or pirating it are the only options.  Which leads to my advice: concentrate on marketing your book and getting honest people to buy it rather than worrying too much about dishonest people.

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