Copyright Concerns for Online Self-Published Authors
Not all books, literature, or works of art are published by large publishing houses. Particularly, in the digital and internet age, many authors are self-publishing. For these authors, self-publishing creates independence for creativity. However, without the due diligence provided by larger publishing houses, self-published authors are more susceptible to infringement of their work or accidental infringement of the work of others. Due to this susceptibility, online self-published authors should be aware of how a copyright works.
Creating a Copyright Page
Copyright is a form of protection for intellectual property that covers both published and unpublished works. For copyright protection of a book, creating a copyright page serves as a means to protect the content of the book. The title page generally serves as the copyright page of book. This page should contain the copyright notice, book edition information, publication information, printing history, cataloging data, legal notices, and the book’s ISBN or identification number. Any credits for design, editing, production and illustration are generally contained on this page. A copyright page is key because it is where the publisher includes all of the legal and bibliographic necessities.
Registering the Copyright
As a general matter, copyright occurs upon creation. However, in order to get legal protection for copyrighted work, the author must register the work with the United States Copyright Office. While there is no requirement to copyright your work, registration creates a record of your work and serves as best evidence, should a dispute arise that you are the original author of the work. Authors should be aware that the “poor-man’s copyright” (i.e. mailing your work to yourself) is not a legitimate form of registration and is rarely held up in court.
Enforcing Your Copyright
Filing a Lawsuit: Copyright infringement is generally a civil law matter. However, under certain circumstances, the infringement may also constitute a criminal misdemeanor or felony, which would be prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice. If a work is registered prior to the infringement or within three months of publication, monetary relief is available through statutory damages. Additionally, the recovery of attorney’s fees incurred in enforcing the copyright may also be available. A certificate of registration (or a rejection of an application for copyright) is a prerequisite for U.S. authors seeking to initiate a suit for copyright infringement in federal district court.
Filing a DMCA Takedown Notice: The Digital Millennium Copyright Act is a group of laws that protect copyrighted content on digital mediums. The DMCA Takedown Notice provides a means for copyright holders to request an Internet Service Provider (ISP), search engine, host, or other type of site-owner/manager remove material that is infringing on a copyright. Unlike other aspects of copyright laws, the DMCA Takedown process does not require you to have a registered copyright. Before filing a DMCA Takedown Notice, the author will have to establish:
1. He or she owns the copyright or has the legal right to asset a claim of copyright infringement;
2. Fair Use or free speech laws are not an exception to the use of the alleged infringement; and
3. The work is capable of being infringed online, meaning the content must be something in digital form such as text, images, music, audio, or video.
If you are a self-published author and have concerns about copyrighting your work or enforcing a copyright, post a short summary of your legal issue on Legal Services Link and let the perfect attorney come to you!
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