How to Obtain the Copyright to a Novel

by Brenna Davis

Works of intellectual property permanently fixed in tangible form, including novels, are eligible for copyright protection. Copyrights limit the ability of others to copy or sell the copyrighted item, and items receive copyright protection as soon as they are fixed in tangible form. You do not need to register copyrights to have copyright protection. However, registering copyrights with the U.S. Copyright Office creates a record that you own the copyrights and can serve as a deterrent to infringement. U.S. law does not allow copyright owners to sue unless their copyright is registered. Once you register for copyright, you can sue for an infringement that took place before the registration.

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Step 1

Determine whether you can register copyrights to the novel. If you wrote the novel, you automatically own the rights unless the novel was written in a work-for-hire situation, or you sold the rights to someone else. If the novel contains excerpts from other works, the novel itself can be copyrighted, but you will not own the copyrights to the other works. You must also seek permission from anyone whose work you excerpt in your novel. If you are not the novel's author, the author must give you the copyrights to the novel. This is most common when you hire someone to write a novel for you, but it's important to have written documentation that you own the copyrights to the novel.

Step 2

Register an account with the U.S. Copyright Office's Electronic Copyright Office. Electronic registration is cheaper and faster than paper registration. Visit the USCO's ECO page and click "If you are a new user, click here to register" in the upper left hand corner of the page. Complete your registration and provide an email address. Then log in to your new account.

Step 3

Click "Register a New Claim" under Copyright Services. Complete the registration. Ensure you provide the book's title, author and date of completion. Provide a permanent address. This is where the USCO will mail your copyright certificate. Then pay the filing fee.

Step 4

Provide the USCO with a copy of your book. After you complete the application, you will be prompted to upload the work. The work must be in .doc, .docx. .zip, .txt, .pdf, .htm, .rtf, .wpd or .wps format.