It’s a no-brainer, right?
One of the simplest, best ways to create a profitable online income stream is to write and sell your own ebook.
This is especially true for online entrepreneurs and businesses that can share valuable information that their audience wants.
But after spending hours pouring your hard-won knowledge into a valuable resource, the last thing you want is for someone to steal it and redistribute it as their own.
Though it’s unlikely to happen to you, the Internet has created the perfect storm of access and sharing, which allows great works to be constantly ripped off.
To give yourself some kind of legal recourse, you should learn how to copyright an ebook.
In our time helping online entrepreneurs design their ebooks, we’ve noticed that ebook copyrighting is something they’re often curious about, but hesitant to deal with. It can seem like one of those intimidating legal hurdles that’s not worth the hassle.
But it’s much easier than you might think.
Remember, the onus is on you to protect all aspects of your business, including your intellectual property.
So read on for a quick breakdown of how to copyright your ebook:
Here’s a fun fact: every sentence you write automatically has copyright protection the moment you create it. As US copyright law states:
So, if you automatically receive copyright protection, you’re safe right?
In order for your copyright to be valid and enforceable, you must be able to prove the ebook was written by you. And no, things like digital timestamps in Microsoft Word or emailing yourself a draft don’t count in a court of law.
Instead, you must register your copyright.
Copyright registration and storage of your ebook with the US Copyright Office gives you the needed proof to take legal action and collect damages.
So, if you invest a lot of time into your ebook and want to ensure you get full protection, you must register your work.
The process of how to copyright your own ebook is actually quite simple.
The US Copyright Office provides an online registration process known as eCo. Here is the step-by-step procedure for filing using eCo:
1. Go to the copyright.gov online portal.
2. Click the blue button that says “Log in to the Electronic Copyright Office (eCO) Registration System”. On the next screen, click the link that says “If you are a new user, click here to register.”
3. Create your account using a name, password, and email.
4. After creating an account, you will be able to proceed with the copyright registration application. Select “Standard Application” from the options on the left-hand side. Complete the application and pay the filing fee when prompted. The fee is $45 for one work with one author and claimant.
5. Once the filing fee is paid, click the “Continue” button on the confirmation page. Then, click the green “Select files to upload” button to browse your files and select your ebook. Your ebook can be submitted as a PDF, Word document, or basic text file.
6. Once your ebook is uploaded, you can complete your submission. eCo filings take between 1-4 months to process, with the average being 1.6 months.
While not required, it’s a good idea to include a copyright notice on one of the first pages of your ebook.
The notice is a simple declaration of how the book is protected under copyright laws. It is most commonly placed on the bottom of the book’s title page, or on a single dedicated page.
As with any legal statements, this can feel a bit intimidating to write yourself, but it’s super easy. Here is an ebook copyright notice example:
Published by John Doe
© 2021 USA
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or modified in any form, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
You can use this boilerplate copyright notice as is or adjust it as needed.
Can I distribute my ebook before my copyright is registered?
Yes, there’s no need to wait for the Copyright Office to process your filing before you distribute your ebook. It can take months for them to process your filing, which is a lot of potential profit to be lost!
Can I file my copyright after I’ve already been distributing my ebook for some time?
Yes, but there are some important time frames of which you should be aware:
You must register your copyright within three months or prior to an infringement in order to be able to collect attorney’s fees from a defendant in an infringement suit. Otherwise, you will only be able to collect statutory damages and any profits.
Also, you must register within five years in order for the registration to establish prima facie evidence in court of the copyright’s validity.
Can I file a copyright under a pen name?
Yes, pen names (aka pseudonyms) are also entitled to copyrights of a written work. You will need to submit your pen name when registering your copyright. Though it’s not required, it’s advised to disclose your legal name when registering for better protection.
How long does my ebook copyright protection last?
The work of a single author is copyright protected for the entire life of the author plus an additional 70 years.
Now you should be able to confidently sell your ebook on your website knowing your rights are fully protected.
Keep in mind that this won’t necessarily stop thieves from pilfering your work (especially international thieves), but it does give you legal recourse should a situation arise where you think it worthwhile to pursue legal action.
Even if you never end up enforcing your copyright, the $45 filing fee is likely worth the peace of mind.