Once you write it, you own the copyright. It's automatic. However, if you intend to sue someone for breach of that copyright and claim punitive damages through the courts, you need to register that copyright (in the US at least). So the questions you need to ask yourself are...
--> Is it likely my book will be pirated?
Now we all like to think the answer to that is "yes", but honestly? unless you're a bestseller, it's unlikely.
--> If someone breaches my copyright, am I going to sue them?
Because if you're not, then what's the point?
--> Am I prepared for a lengthy and potentially costly legal battle to establish a cause for punitive damages against someone who probably won't be able to afford to pay whatever you're awarded anyway?
Because if not, why bother?
--> Are you going to lose sleep over it if you don't register your copyright?
Because if so, it's only $35. What have you got to lose?
Thanks for your reply. I'm sure everyone thinks their work is the next big thing.
$35? Do you know the cost in the UK? I thought it was £500.
I'm almost ready to publish a children's book that I also illustrated and I'm working on a novel too.
The children's book, I'm thinking of doing merchandise to go with it. T-shirts, cuddly toys etc maybe a cartoon. So mainly thinking long term on this. Potentially turning into a business if it takes off and I've had good feedback so far.
it cost me $35. just check the 'international' box when it asks where your copyright is applicable. not had my paperwork in the mail, they said it was 3mo waiting when I did it, which was only about 6wks ago, but I've got the email confirmation. my thinking is that dmca is American legislation, so if I'm copyrighted in America that's good enough for most purposes.
Let me be my usual cranky self here and make a few points.
First, why would you even consider publishing a book without first researching the subject of copyright (other than asking a question in a forum largely inhabited by people who don't know any more about law than you do)? There are lots of resources out there on the web.
Second, it's worth reiterating, because at least two people on this thread so far don't seem to get it, that "registering" a copyright is not "getting" a copyright. As stated above, [b]copyright is automatic[/b].
Third, someone asked what you've got to lose by spending $35 on U.S. registration. The answer is, $35. Realistically, are you ever going to enter into litigation with anyone over your book? No e-book distributor, Amazon or anyone else, is going to sell a pirated book or continue selling it after being notified of your rights. And even if your work was pirated, how much would it cost you to litigate? Unless you expect to make $100,000 from your book, I can't imagine litigation ever being cost-effective.
That's just my opinion, and not legal advice, which you should seek in the appropriate place.
to clarify I believe my point was that if the OP is going to start losing sleep worrying that their copyright is being breached then for the sake of $35 it's worth investing in getting it registered. over the lifetime of the copyright I'm sure even the slowest book can scrape up that amount and therefore pay for itself. however, as I also pointed out, unless you intend to drag someone through the courts it is not particularly necessary.
Unless the people who violate your copyright have deep pockets, it simply will not pay to sue them. If you are not going to sue, what good is registration? If a major publisher or motion picture company plagiarizes your book, you will have deep pockets to pick, but the chances of that happening are small.
Nobody has brought up the angle of protecting yourself from someone else attempting to claim copyright. What if the thief attempted to get YOUR work pulled down, claiming the copyright to be his? Then you end up in a pissing contest and Amazon or whoever must decide which one to honor.
It appears to be common that people unpublish/republish and I'm assuming that negates your publish date, and you could be the one labeled a thief of your own work!
I publish with the belief that my books will sell enough to justify the one-time $35 copyright registration fee. For me, the peace of mind is worth it.
Sorry skookumpete, but I don't recall saying that registering a copyright is getting a copyright.
Perhaps you have someone else in mind. But I assume everyone knows that copyright automatically belongs to the person who creates the work. Registering a copyright is only a way of protecting yourself against claims against your right.