Posted on 2013-Oct-24
Front Matter – Copyright Page: Best Practices for Authors
This is part of a series on front matter presented by BB eBooks.
Here Come the Lawyers!
Copyright law is an extremely complicated subject that is best left to lawyers, policymakers, and other folks who didn’t have angst-ridden childhoods like those of us in the indie publishing community. However, as an author or small press you should be aware of a couple basic bits of knowledge about copyright law that will protect you and your work from unnecessary legal proceedings and heartache. The software development community has been under siege from so-called “patent trolls” for several years, and it is only a matter of time before a bunch of lowlifes find out that indie publishing is big business and there’s money to be stolen from the hard work of artists via the legal system. Having a clear copyright page in your eBook or print book can help ward off these creeps.
As an Author, Who Owns My Copyright?
If you’re an author, you may ask what you have to do to own the copyright. The quick and dirty answer is nothing: the minute you type or write something down that is original, by US law (and the laws of most countries around the world), you own the copyright unless you have chosen to sell or give it away through a contractual agreement. Ever since 1989 in the United States, even if your work is already published and you don’t have a copyright notice in it, you still have the copyright (unless you have sold or given it away). For more information, you can peruse the U.S. Copyright Office website. The copyright law very much favors content creators—maybe a bit too much, but that’s a political situation outside the scope of this material.
The Copyright Notice
Even though a copyright notice isn’t necessary, it’s still a good practice to include one on the copyright page inside your eBook or print edition, even if it is very simple. All that is required for a copyright notice is:
- The word “Copyright” r the symbol © (most people use both)
- The year the work was first published (include the years of any prior editions so that all years are in chronological order)
- The name of the person or organization (pen names are okay)
So an example would be: Copyright © 2013 Paul Salvette
That’s it! Very simple to do.
Tip: To make the little copyright symbol © on your keyboard press Alt+0169.
Structure of the Copyright Page
For eBooks and print editions, a complete copyright page typically includes the following:
- The copyright notice
- The type of edition (e.g. Kindle Edition, Smashwords Edition, Print Edition, etc.)
- An ISBN (if you have one)
- Credit to contributors who worked on the book (editor, cover designer, etc.)
- An “all rights reserved” statement
- A disclaimer if your book is risqué and only suitable for an adult audience
- An website/mailing address for you or your organization
For eBooks, the copyright page typically follows the title page; although, you may wish to consider placing it in the back so that it doesn’t show up in your sampler. Per The Chicago Manual of Style, the copyright page for print books should be on the left-hand side immediately after the full title page (usually page ii or iv). Since this page is primarily for the lawyers, feel free to set in a smaller font than the body copy of your eBook/print book. At BB eBooks, we usually set the font at 85% of what the body copy is so that it is readable, and yet the reader will understand it’s not an integral part of the work.
Special Note for Smashwords: Like many other things, Smashwords has to buck the trend and do things differently. They ask that the copyright notice be placed on the title page immediately followed by “Smashwords Edition”. This will work okay for Smashwords:
My Awesome Book
By Paul Salvette
Copyright © 2013 Paul Salvette
Example Copyright Page
An example copyright page would be as follows. Please feel free to cut, paste, and modify as necessary:
Copyright © 2016 BB eBooks Co., Ltd.
Written by Paul Salvette
Edited by Ben Salvette
Cover Design by Boonyalisa Salvette
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
Disclaimer: The material in this book is for mature audiences only and contains graphic content. It is intended only for those aged 18 and older.
BB eBooks Co., Ltd.
98/28 On Nut 36
Sukhumvit 77 Road
Suan Luang, Bangkok 10250
Registering Your Copyright
In a perfect world, you would not need to register your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office (or the copright office of your applicable country if you’re not ’merican). However, formal registration is necessary if you end up in court for some reason to dispute your copyright. Further, if you register your work before the infringement takes place (or no later than three months after first publication and the infringement takes place after publication), you may choose to collect statutory damages instead of actual damages, and you may recover your attorney’s fees. Registration also can come in handy if you get the dreaded email from Amazon or another vendor saying that you must prove you own the copyright or they are going to unpublish your book. This unfortunate incident happened to one of our regular clients, Ron Ledwell, who has been drawing comics for decades. Since his work is being sold by comic book stores, eBay, and host of other online channels, he has quite the visible Google footprint. More maliciously, if someone has stolen your work and tries to publish it as their own, you could be the person having to prove your own innocence. If Amazon’s algorithms flag your work as possibly not your own, you will get a rather surly and threatening email demanding that you prove your copyright.
Fortunately, Mr. Ledwell had registered his comic books with the U.S. Copyright Office over the years, so he just needed to show them the documentation they send after he registered his copyrights. It costs $35 to register an original work in which you are the author and can be done online. This probably isn’t necessary if you’re just starting out as an author, but if you have a lot of books or are successful, it’s best to protect your assets and consider taking these extra steps.
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