Copyrighted Book Laws

By Cindy Hill

The book publishing industry is changing rapidly, but copyright laws continue to protect the rights of authors, whether their material is published on paper, online or as an e-book. Copyright protection gives authors, or the firms with whom they contract to publish their books, the exclusive right to distribute their works or create sequels for a set period of time. This helps to ensure that authors can make a living from their writing.

The book publishing industry is changing rapidly, but copyright laws continue to protect the rights of authors, whether their material is published on paper, online or as an e-book. Copyright protection gives authors, or the firms with whom they contract to publish their books, the exclusive right to distribute their works or create sequels for a set period of time. This helps to ensure that authors can make a living from their writing.

Copyright

Copyright laws protect the rights of people who develop creative material, including "original works of authorship, including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works." Copyright law allows authors to preclude others from diminishing the economic value of their works by reproducing or creating sequels to their writings without the author's permission. Authors, like other copyright holders, may transfer their copyrights to others as long as the transfer is done in writing and signed by the author. Publishers often acquire at least a portion of the author's copyright to literary works as an element of the publishing contract. The same copyright laws apply to e-books.

Protect against infringement by registering a copyright. Get Started Now

Registration

Basic copyright protection arises automatically as soon as a literary work is committed to a "tangible medium of expression." In other words, an idea for a future novel in an author's head is not protected by copyright law, but once the words are written on a piece of paper or typed into a digital file, the author holds the copyright to those written words. Copyright registration is not legally required, but does provide writers with significant advantages. Copyright in a literary work can be registered by completing the U.S. Copyright Office's online application form and submitting it together with a copy of the work and appropriate filing fee. A work must be registered before the author can bring an enforcement lawsuit against someone who has infringed on her literary copyright.

Fair Use

Not every unpermitted use of a literary work constitutes copyright infringement. Copyright law allows some narrowly limited uses of copyrighted book contents, or other written materials, for fair use. Fair use exceptions commonly include use of limited quotations from the material for purposes of literary or scholarly criticism, or the use of portions of a book in a classroom setting to illustrate a particular lesson. Photocopying a full-length book rather than buying a copy, even for purposes of educational use, does not qualify as fair use because it negatively impacts the market value of the book, making it harder for the author to make a living from the sale of her work.

Duration

The length of copyright protection for books and other written works varies depending on the date the work was created. For any works written after January 1, 1978, copyright protects the work for the life of the author plus 70 years, with the copyright passing to the author's heirs after her death if not already transferred during the author's lifetime. The duration of copyright for works written before 1978, produced by anonymous authors or works-for-hire differ depending on the date and manner in which the work was written. Once copyright protection expires, the work is considered to be in the public domain, and the former copyright holder can no longer preclude others from printing, selling, or creating sequels to her book.

Protect against infringement by registering a copyright. Get Started Now
Joint Authorship & Copyright

References

Related articles

Copyright Laws for Out of Print Books

Under U.S. law, copyright protection is not dependent upon publication. Authors of literary works have exclusive rights to duplicate, distribute and create derivatives of their works from the moment the work is first preserved in some tangible form. These rights extend for the length of the copyright, regardless of whether the work is ever published. The publisher may choose to cease publication of a book after a few years, but that book remains equally protected by copyright.

Comic Copyright Laws

Copyright law protects original works from unlicensed copying or reproduction. The copyright belongs to the creator of the work and exists from the moment the work is produced in a fixed form. Copyright extends to both pictorial and written expressions and therefore includes both the writing and the pictures contained in comics. Depending on the nature and style of the comic, it can be classified as either a work of visual arts or a literary work. The Copyright Act can be found in Title 17 of the United States Code.

Copyright Laws on Exercise Routines

Title 17 of the U.S. Code extends copyright protection to original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works. Exercise routines that fall within any of these categories may be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. Copyright does not extend to ideas or concepts that have not been fixed in a tangible form. To benefit from copyright protection, the creator of an original routine must therefore either write it down or record it in a video or multimedia format.

Related articles

What Can Happen When You Have a Copyright?

Copyrights attach to an original creative work once it is placed in fixed form. Copyright gives the holder the ...

Copyright Laws for Authors and Artists

Copyright law creates ownership rights for works of authorship, including literature and visual arts. In the United ...

Forms of Copyright Infringement

The federal copyright laws protect the creators of original literary and other artistic works. If you register a ...

Copyright Rules & Time Limits

U.S. federal laws provide the basis for copyright rules and time limits. The general purpose of copyright law is to ...

Browse by category