Help protect your "Work" (manuscript) with a statement of common law ownership, a form of copyright. Using a copyright statement is the first step to protect the Work. This should be done before sending all or part of a manuscript to an agent or publisher. You can turn to your publisher or a group such as LegalZoom, but I recommend doing it yourself for unpublished Works and also to register a published Work's copyright.
The U. S. Copyright Office also registers unpublished documents (for a fee):
"Deposit requirements for literary works depend on whether a work has been published at the time of registration. For unpublished works, one complete copy or phonorecord is required. If you use the electronic Copyright Office (eCO) to register your unpublished work, you can submit your deposit electronically. See sl-35 for details about eCO. If you choose to submit a hard-copy deposit or to register using a paper application, there is no specific requirement regarding the printing, binding, format, or paper size and quality of the unpublished manuscript material you deposit. Typewritten, photocopied, and legibly handwritten manuscripts, preferably in ink, are all acceptable. However, because deposit material represents the entire copyrightable content of a work submitted for registration, copies deposited in a format that will facilitate handling and long-term storage (for example, stapled, bound, or clipped material) are greatly appreciated by the Copyright Office." - Source: U. S. Copyright Office website.
Copyright applies only to the version registered with an official entity like a government copyright office. Changes require new copyright.
I use the process below until a Work is published:
Prepare your author copyright statement with your name or pen name. For example:
Copyright (c) 2014 Portia V. Huber
Put your copyright statement in the header or footer of each document connected with your Work. For now, let's assume that the Work documents are chapters.
- Open Chapter 1.
- Find how to access Header or Footer (in Microsoft Word, go to the View menu and click on "Header...Footer" - the Top or Bottom "box" on any page of the chapter.
- Type your copyright statement into the blank space of either the Header or Footer; you could put it in both, if it makes you feel better.
- Click anywhere on the text page of Chapter 1 to get out of the Header/Footer box and back to the text.
- Save the changes.
- Notice that your copyright statement now appears on every page of Chapter 1.
- Continue working or close the chapter.
- Repeat 1-7 to add copyright statement to every chapter.
TIP #2 Build this process into a habit for added protection for you and your writing.
TIP #3 You can create second "Read Only" versions of your chapters, for anyone you want to give you feedback, after the steps above are followed. Be sure to keep your working documents not "Read only"!
rights of ownership
costs to register a copyright
Thanks! to writers whose questions have influenced 2013 topics here at Author Support. Looking forward to blogging more in 2014.
HAPpY NEW YEAR!
Copyright (c) 2013 Jean P. Purcell