God must really love bureaucrats, or there wouldn’t be so many of them. I just wish we could rely on a higher power for a little help when we have to deal with them. Having spent several hours registering the copyrights for some of my work, I now have a reasonable working knowledge of the system as it pertains to publishing books. The system works, but it’s cumbersome, and it’s clear the process wasn’t designed by someone who gave a damn about the folks who have to use it. But wait! Isn’t that the definition of “bureaucrat?”
So, how did I get here? A quick recap of events (which you can read about here) is in order. The U.S. Supreme Court, ruling in the case of Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corp. v. Wall-Street.com, LLC, specified that actual approval of a copyright application by the United States Copyright Office is required before a suit can be filed.
Previously, one could hold off registering a copyright until they had reason to believe someone was trying to use their work without permission. That’s no longer the case.
My initial research suggested one could register up to ten items at a time. The actual line from the agency’s web page states: “Beginning March 15th, you may register up to 10 unpublished works using the new application for a ‘Group of Unpublished Works.’ A different limit will apply when registering a group of photographs.”
Silly me. I thought “unpublished works” included novels and/or non-fiction books. It doesn’t. The ten items mentioned here refers to songs, short stories, or other components of a single work. I presume that includes recipes, sermons, poems and similar short pieces of intellectual property. If your collection of short stories runs longer than ten, you’ll have to register the others in a separate filing. However, I couldn’t find anything to explain how these subsequent listings could be linked. Like I said, it’s cumbersome. The answer is likely in there somewhere. I just didn’t have the time to dig it out. Sorry.
So, that meant the ten novels I intended to register each required a separate application, even though most of the information in them was repeated unchanged. Oh, and the charge for this “service” is $55 per title.
While I poured over the logic-challenged webpages at www.copyright.gov and https://eco.copyright.gov, I pondered what could happen if I just said to hell with it and left the copyright for my titles unrecorded.
With my luck, some joker would stumble upon a novel they really liked and decide to steal it. They could check for an existing copyright registration using the handy search function on the government website. And, upon discovering I hadn’t bothered to protect my work, they could–theorhetically (I don’t mean to suggest a methodology for the morally bankrupt)–republish it under their name.
But it could get worse! Imagine if the thief of my intellectual property took the time to register a copyright in his own name. He could then turn around and sue me for copyright infringement–on my own work!
So, guess who’s going to be spending some time recording copyrights. And in the future, I’ll do it before any new work is published. And I urge all the writers I know to do the same.
Don’t be stupid. Protect your work, and yourself.