When two individuals write a book, United States copyright law gives each author a copyright interest in the entire book. There are exceptions to this general rule – for example, copyright law treats compilations differently and two authors can agree between themselves to a different arrangement – but in most instances, the work of each author is treated as an inseparable interest in the whole. Copyright protection begins as soon as the book is written and fixed in some tangible form. Registering the book with the U.S. Copyright Office is important because it creates a public record and gives the authors the right to prevent unauthorized copying of the work by bringing a federal lawsuit for infringement.
Visit the U.S. Copyright Office’s website and complete the online application form or use a document preparation and filing service such as LegalZoom.com to file your application for a non-dramatic literary work. File a paper application by downloading Form TX; alternately, you can request that the Copyright Office mail a copy to you and submit that as an alternative to filing your application online.
Provide the information requested on the form, including the full names of both authors. Indicate both authors' year of birth to distinguish them from other authors with similar names. Include the year of death if one or both authors are deceased.
Provide a brief, general statement describing the nature of each author’s contribution to the book, such as co-author of the entire book.
List the date that the work was fixed in a copy for the first time; include the month, day and year you published the work if you distributed copies of the book to the public by sale or transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease or lending.
Inform the Copyright Office if there are any claimants to the copyright. Specifically identify anyone to whom you have assigned rights to your book; in the absence of other claimants, list both authors.
Sign the copyright registration application.
Provide the Copyright Office with two complete copies of the book if you have not published it or one complete copy if the book has been published.