Although the copyright law itself is quite extensive, the part of it that affects the writer is actually quite limited. For that reason, this section will cover only what you really need to know to carry on the day-to-day business of writing and selling. Following are the major points to learn and remember.
- The current copyright law went into effect January 1, 1978, so affects only material copyrighted on or after that date. Additional revisions were made effective March 1, 1989.
- Everything you write has copyright protection from the time it reaches a tangible form (it is written down somewhere). You do not need to register the copyright to have that protection—it is automatic.
- Technically when we say we are selling a book or other piece of writing, what we are actually selling are the rights to use that material.
- As of March 1, 1989, you are no longer required to put a copyright notice on a piece of work to have copyright protection. However, common sense dictates that we put a copyright notice on each manuscript before submitting or distributing it. A copyright notice consists of a © (a C in a circle or parentheses) the year of creation or copyright, and your name, i.e., © 2016 Sally E. Stuart. For a book, the copyright notice is included on the title page. For periodicals, it can be included in either of the top corners of the first page, under your name and address on the left or under the number of words and rights offered on the right.
- Generally, it is not necessary to register a copyright before submitting your manuscript to a publisher. The exception would be if you have done a lot of original research and have come up with information or statistics that others may want to use without permission.