Copyright Basics for Self-Publishers

Excerpted with the permission of the author from Self-Publishing Legal Handbook: Second Edition by Helen Sedwick, published by Ten Gallon Press (ISBN 9780988302198). This is an excellent resource and recommended for all publishers.

The author owns the copyright to their work as soon as they put an original creation into a fixed format whether on paper, on a digital device, or as a recording. The first draft with all typos and errors is protected by copyright law whether it’s published or not. Many people still assume you must publish a copyright mark© or register the copyright for it to be valid. That used to be case until 1977. Since then copyright ownership doesn’t have this requirement. It’s automatic.

Registering with the US Copyright Office is an optional step. If the author chooses to register , they should ideally do so within 3 months of publication for $35 at You can also register web and blog content. Officially registering copyright can take up to a year to complete, but publication of the work can move forward during the processing time.

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