Palmerston North, New Zealand

Registered Copyright or Not?

Registered Copyright or Not?

The Why’s and Why Not’s of Copyright.

I’ve been surprised by the differences of copyright offered in the countries an Author resides in, along side how long it can take to get Registered Copyright, especially in the USA.  So what is all the fuss about, why do some authors go for registered and other, like myself, don’t bother.

Well the answer to why I don’t bother with registered copyright is because it isn’t an option here in New Zealand.  According to research I’ve done we only have what some authors call ‘The Poor Man’s Copyright.’  So are we in New Zealand as protected by International Law as others.  Yes we are.  So why is registered copyright so important in the USA?  Why is it so slow?  

In the UK they do registered copyright online.  I have yet to establish if anyone world wide can apply, or if the author has to be living in the UK.  Research is ongoing.

Copyright Envelope

Imagine the excitement of receiving your registered copyright

In the USA, you can apply for registered copyright either by yourself or through a copyright lawyer.  I have two lovely authors who have proceeded or are proceeding through these different channels.  Their experiences vary.

Registered Copyright via a Copyright Lawyer.  Here is how it works.

First you need to find yourself a Copyright Lawyer who will assist you with your application to the Copyright Office (USA).  There are many out there, and you need to find one which you can afford and understand.  Nobody wants to get lost in with copyright lingo. 

So you have your Copyright Lawyer.  As with any meeting or appointments you will need to be timely and have all the documentation you need to send a final draft copy of your manuscript. There will be documents to fill in and sign off as the author after which your Lawyer will send it in.  

First your manuscript will have to be accepted by the Copyright Office, after which it will take a minimum of five months to get your work seen and approved.  Once your book is approved the Copyright Office will send you a letter with all the details which you need to put in your book prior to publishing.

Lastly, don’t forget to pay your Lawyer fees.

A scenario which can happen to all authors.

Ms A has a copyright. Ms B does not. Both stories are VERY similar (even in just one key aspect). Ms B sent her own material to herself through the mail and email giving herself what’s call “the poor persons copyright”. Ms A and Ms B both end up in court against each other. Even if Ms B finished her material first Ms A would win in court because she has an official document saying the material is hers.

Registered Copyright without a Lawyer

The website below has easy steps and forms for you to follow. It takes 3-8 months for registered copyright without a lawyer. It costs $35.00.


So what is best to do?  Below is a link to the Berne Convention which was first pulled together in 1886.  It makes an interesting read about Copyright.  Registered or not.

Poor Man’s Copyright – International Laws


Of course this is just the tip of the iceberg.  I’d love to know more.  I’d love to know why some countries don’t offer Registered Copyright.  Let  me know.  I love to learn more about copyright.  Thanks

25 Responses

  1. First — as soon as you file the form, you’ve got all the benefits of registration in the US. Second — I cannot imagine ANY benefits to using an attorney to file your copyright registration in the US.

    Now for WHY you do it at the time of publication. The why is very, very simple. Statutory damages. In all other countries with which I am familiar, when you go to court, you have to prove actual damages against any infringer. That’s very very difficult. And it usually requires the services of someone like me, to calculate the lost sales, revenues, and profits.

    In the US, if you file at or near the time of first publication, you have the option to claim statutory damages. These start at $30,000 and head north. The size of those numbers means that any solid case can enlist an IP attorney to take the case on a contingency basis. The author doesn’t need to pay a dime until they win, and then the fees come out of the judgment or settlement. That’s a huge benefit.

    • Thank you Marion. Maybe we will get Registered Copyright in New Zealand one day

      • There ARE benefits to using a copyright lawyer. I live in the US. My first book is in the copyright process right now. I hired a copyright lawyer. #1 I wanted to make sure I didn’t screw up the paperwork. #2 Because I wrote my book under an alternate identity, I was able to use the address of the lawyer’s office instead of my own this maintaining my privacy. #3 As a first time author I had a million questions and, in my opinion, there is no substitute for talking to someone who knows the in’s and out’s of the process. The cost isn’t as bad as what people might think and my peace of mind is worth every penny.
        J. C. Christian “Reaching for the Light: An Incest Survivor’s Story”

  2. Check with a copyright attorney before you pursue your copyright. Most will give you a thirty minute free consult. In the US you have a copyright as soon as you declare it. You do not need to register. However, that does not mean no one will steal your work, or prevent you from being tied up in courts. Be aware, however, that some publishers will not look at a manuscript which you have registered. Indie authors should be all means register. Authors who seek publishers, however, should hold off, but grant their publishers first serial right only. They should hold the long term copyright to themselves. And again, by all means, do not take my word for it. Find a copyright attorney who will give you a free half hour consult. The law changes. And the two to four hundred they charge to do work for you may be worth while. (For instance, if you wrote your novel or non-fiction book while employed for someone who will claim your intellectual property rights even if you wrote on your own time).

  3. […] Source: Registered Copyright or Not? […]

  4. Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog and commented:
    Thanks to Claire Plaisted, owner of Plaisted Publishing House, for posting this information ??

  5. Much of my poetry appeared on my site (newauthoronline.com) prior to being published in book form. The material still exists online which would, I should imagine act as evidence as to me being the lawful copyright owner (anyone checking the site can see the date on which the poems first appeared). Kevin

  6. BunKaryudo says:

    Very interesting. If I ever do try to publish anything more than a blogpost, copyright is an area I’ll have to look into in more detail, so I was useful to get a bit of an introduction to the issue here.

  7. Mind-boggling to say the least. Good to know.

  8. Reblogged this on Writer's Treasure Chest and commented:
    This is an informative, interesting and very important blog post for not only new, but all writers. Thank you so much for sharing Claire!

  9. Reblogged this on Mysticalwriter and commented:
    A lot of good information here on copywrite!

  10. I don’t know why there is all the fuss about copyright. The author, painter. poet, photographer etc automatically owns the copyright. The only thing I can see that might be a problem is the when of the creation. There have been people asking about this on a number of Linked In threads and what I said above is always stated. In the case of photographs (I looked this up myself because I wanted to make a painting of an old photograph) the copyright holds until 70 years after the death of the owner. (I think those are the right numbers. I’ve not re-checked them.) Seems to me that as usual, lawyers are making a packet out of something that is unnecessary.
    If I am wrong on this, I would like to be corrected though.

    • Thank you for your comment. The whole idea was to get people to see the differences, get opinions and a discussion started and the why’s and why not’s. Personally, I’m with you on the part – Lawyers making a packet. As I stated n New Zealand we only have automatic international copyright (poor mans copyright), which as many have said is hard to prove if your idea etc is stolen. You are correct on the years after death, though it does depend on which country you live in as well, I have noticed they do vary. One thing you will find in the USA is all authors published through one of the big 5 houses will have Registered copyright. Meanwhile as an Indie Author and Publisher, my clients do as they see fit, depending on which country they are in. 😀

  11. Interesting discussion. And yes, much of the advice seems reasonable. And it might also be noted that, here in America, there is the common law copyright. That is, the author places the copyright symbol, the year and his name (or the DBA of his choice) after that, usually on the bottom of the title page. When it has been done, you have a common law copyright. It does not need to be registered. It is good, but it is not necessarily the best in all possible instances. With regard to international copyrights, it’s almost always another story. The rules vary from country to country. (Yes, I am a writer, for almost half a century now, under various pen names. I have self-published, but most of my work, in all formats, is through standard publishers.)

    • Yes your right on the international copyright law. It is different in each country. I like the way the normal copyright also has different names in different countries. I use the common law copyright aka poor man’s copyright or what ever else it is called. I hope to do a follow up blog once i learn a bit more.

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