by Michael Bedford
Published at 2021-02-24
Self-publishing opportunities allow authors to reach their audiences on their own schedules and through their own publishing initiatives. An important step in the publishing process is securing copyright information that allows the author to write/create a copyright statement to protect their published book (often referred to as “the work”). This copyright statement is usually placed on the copyright page, which is a page that often follows the internal title page of the printed book. The copyright page includes basic information about the book, the publisher, and what rights have been reserved. It can also have some extras that can help identify and catalogue the book.
As it turns out, creating a basic copyright statement is a relatively simple task requiring only a few pieces of readily available information about the piece of writing in question.
If you’re looking for a barebones, basics-only, generic copyright statement, there are four details you need to include on your copyright page (or wherever you place your copyright statement, if you only want a short version).
Every book publication needs a title. And each title can be protected by copyright. The title of each work you publish, and subsequently own the copyright to, sets it apart from copyrights on any other intellectual property you own now or will own in the future.
The year that your book was first published, or will be published, stands as the work’s publication date. The year of publication can be updated periodically if you make changes to the work. Or, if the copyright is sold or given to a new owner, that new copyright information replaces the original.
Although many self-publishing authors choose to publish their work under their own names, others prefer the optics of publishing their work under the brand of their self-started imprints (though starting your own imprint is its own process that I won’t get into here). Either option provides the same amount of copyright protection: just make sure you spell the name correctly!
The copyright symbol (©) is just as important as the title, author, and year of publication. You can also use the word “Copyright” or the abbreviation “Copr.”
Once you’ve decided on your book’s title, the year it will be published, how it will be published, and figured out how to create the little copyright symbol on your keyboard (PC: Ctrl+Alt+C / Mac: Option+g), you’re ready to create your basic copyright notice. It should look like this:
The Story of My Life © Michael Bedford 2021
Once you include that in your book, your copyright is protected.
So, you’ve created your basic copyright statement. However, if you’ve seen the copyright pages of other books, you’ll likely have noticed that there’s usually a lot more information included than just the copyright statement.
Most copyright pages include the city or country that the book was published in; this is a useful piece of information because copyright laws in different countries offer copyright owners different levels of protection. A book published in a foreign country may not enjoy the same protections as one published in Canada.
A reservation of rights statement simply gives notice as to how your work can be used. The right type of copyright for one author may not be the right type of copyright for another. For those choosing to err on the side of caution, the classic “All Rights Reserved” copyright is the best option.
All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or in any means – by electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise – without prior written permission from the publisher.
This copyright indicates that anyone seeking to reproduce any part of your work in any form must obtain your express permission to do so. This is a great way to protect your intellectual property, but this framework may be too restrictive for some authors.
Creative Commons is offering one attractive alternative to the “All Rights Reserved” route with their “ShareAlike” licence. This type of licence allows licensees the ability to share and adapt works by licensors without seeking express permission from the copyright holder. Licensees must accredit the original work to the licensor, seek no commercial gain for the sharing or adaptation of their work, and indicate what changes were made to the original work. This seems like a great way to get one’s work out there, but with no right to refusal on who might reproduce your work, there’s no guarantee on the quality of the reproduction or whether the reproduction represents your identity accurately.
If you’re including a statement on what rights you reserve, then it can be a good idea to also include some method of contacting you. If someone wants to excerpt your work, or quote it in some manner, then including your website URL, for example, is a good way to make sure you can be contacted. Publishing houses often list the mailing address of their headquarters, but if you’re publishing under your own name, you may not want to publish your home address for all to see, so a website URL with a “Contact me” function is a good alternate method.
If you plan on selling your book in any way (including through Amazon), you should have an ISBN. An ISBN, or “International Standard Book Number,” is part of an international system of identifying and tracking books. Each book has its own unique number assigned to it. The good thing is, you only need one ISBN to sell worldwide, if you are only producing one format of your book (hardcover or paperback). If you’re publishing more than one format, such as hardcover AND paperback, you’ll need to get a unique ISBN for each format. If you create any updated/revised follow-up editions, those will need their own unique ISBNs as well.
CIP (Cataloguing in Publication) is another method of identifying books, but this system creates standardized bibliographic information that can be used to catalogue books, in the form of a little block of bibliographic data. Getting CIP data is a voluntary step in self-publishing your book, but it can be useful, as it helps libraries and distributors process your book once it has been published. In Canada, however, self-published authors are unfortunately no longer eligible to apply for CIP data. In the US, CIP data is often provided through the Library of Congress, though applying for the cataloguing information is usually restricted to publishers who publish at least five titles a year. If a self-publisher really wants this information included on their copyright page, the Library of Congress offers Preassigned Control Numbers (PCN), which are for smaller-volume publishers and individual authors. You can apply for the PCN program through the LOC’s website.
It’s important to note that Canada’s copyright laws protect all copyright owners, regardless of whether or not they have registered their work. However, registering your copyright is the best way to protect your intellectual property (in this case your book). In web publishing, copyright ownership defaults to the first person who has published the work in question online, but registering your copyright is the only way to officially identify your copyright to the appropriate governing body.
The Canadian Intellectual Property Office oversees copyright ownership in Canada, and the United States Copyright Office oversees American copyrights. However, even though both offices act as registries, neither office involves itself in policing copyrights. Instead, both offices act as official registries for copyrights. The main benefit of registering a copyright is that a registered copyright acts as a gold standard in proving a person’s legal ownership of that copyright. Other forms of proof may be accepted as proof of copyright ownership, but none holds as much official legal clout as registered copyright ownership.
For those looking for more information on copyrights, Pagemaster Publishing provides a great rundown of Canadian copyrighting practices, and the Canadian Intellectual Property Office has a very informative guide and FAQ section.
Michael Bedford is a freelance editor, copywriter, and performer living in Stoney Creek, Ontario. He can be reached at https://mgb-editor.com/.
Looking for more content that can help new authors? Check out our blogs on creating a great hook to catch the eye of a publisher, or how you can put together a great manuscript submission package.