Registering Copyrights For Your Book

Of all the complicated and tedious stages of the book compliance process, copyright registration may be the most confusing. Between deciphering weird terminology like “claimant” and “limitations of claim,” establishing reasonable timelines, and dealing with legal intricacies, registering copyright claims can be mentally exhausting.

Fortunately, the Greenleaf staff is very familiar with the copyright process and can break down the basics. Below is a quick but fairly thorough look at the process.

Once a book is published, its author or claimant (we will deal with the distinction between author and claimant later) must apply for a copyright. Every US copyright application must be submitted to the Library of Congress Copyright Office. Although technically an author’s original work is protected under US copyright law from the moment it is created, we highly recommended that authors officially register their work to ensure additional statutory protections under the U.S. Copyright Act (which can be significant). A registration application can be submitted up to five years after the work has been created, but it is best to apply for registration soon after the book is published. (We recommend no more than 1-3 months). It is important to note that registration may only be submitted after the book is published.

The registration process consists of a series of questions regarding the nature of the work. The basic questions address the type of work (usually “Literary Work”), the number of authors involved, and the publication date of the book.

One of the more confusing questions is whether the author is registering as an author or as a claimant. The author of the work is simply the individual responsible for its creation; the claimant is the copyright owner. Regardless of who created the work, the claimant will own all of the rights to it. If the author and the claimant are different, the claimant must have written proof that they are indeed the owner of the work (through “work for hire” or assignment agreements etc.). So if you are registering your work, make sure that you understand these requirements and that you give the registration process the proper attention as not doing so may cause your registration to be delayed or rejected or even have legal implications for you down the road.

Once the copyright application is completed, two copies of the work, along with shipping slips from the website, must be sent to the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. The LOC may take several months to complete and file a registration, but this proactive measure ensures that the book is registered and protected.

If you get overwhelmed with copyright registration, there are informational tools available on the LOC website that give a detailed explanation of the process.