Are Online Ebooks Automatically Copyrighted?

By Tom Streissguth

With the growing popularity of e-books, the opportunity for literary pirates to make use of copyrighted material for their own profit also increases. Federal law, however, provides grounds for legal action if anyone makes use of another's written work -- even when the author uses a digital or online format for publication.

With the growing popularity of e-books, the opportunity for literary pirates to make use of copyrighted material for their own profit also increases. Federal law, however, provides grounds for legal action if anyone makes use of another's written work -- even when the author uses a digital or online format for publication.

Law

Federal law, as set out in Title 17 of the United States Code, covers copyright protection. This law has jurisdiction throughout the United States and its territories, and federal copyright-infringement claims are handled in federal district courts. The United States Copyright Office is the registrar of new copyrights and archive of previous copyrights.

Protect against infringement by registering a copyright. Get Started Now

Copyright Claims

The law does not require registration of a copyright in order for an author to have legal ownership of that copyright. When you create an original work of authorship in a permanent, fixed form, then you hold a copyright to that work. Legal forms of copyrighted work include include tangible text media such as books or magazines; it also includes e-books, which are fixed and stored in an electronic digital medium.

Copyright Notice

Publishers and individual authors normally declare their claim to copyright with a copyright notice. In printed or e-book form, this notice usually comes near the start of the work and includes the copyright symbol ©, as well as the year of publication and the name of the individual or organization claiming copyright. By the Berne Convention signed by the United States in 1989, however, no copyright notice is required in order to hold legal copyright protection of a written work.

Term of Copyright

By federal law effective on January 1, 1978, copyright in written works lasts for 70 years after the death of the author. If you wish to transfer your e-book copyright exclusively to another person or entity, you must do so in writing. Non-exclusive rights do not need to be conveyed in writing. Without written permission, no one holds exclusive rights to your work.

Infringement

You may protect your e-book copyright against infringement in court, but you must register the copyright with the United States Copyright Office in order to do so. The registration creates a public record of your copyright, which must be done within five years of publication and provides legal proof to the court that you are the copyright holder. If you register the copyright within three months after you publish the e-book, you may claim damages, attorney fees, and the profit realized by the infringing party. Otherwise, you can only claim damages and profit.

Protected Use

Copyright limits the use others may have of your work. Your copyrighted work may not be reproduced, transferred, or sold in any form -- digital or hard-copy -- without your permission. The legal convention known as “fair use” limits the amount of quoted material from your work which another party, such as a book reviewer, may use in his own work.

Protect against infringement by registering a copyright. Get Started Now
Copyright Laws for Authors and Artists

References

Resources

Related articles

How to Copyright Your Comic Creations

Comic creations feature an abundance of copyrightable matter, including detailed art work, unique graphics and creative text. You can register your original creative work as a literary work or a visual art work. Complete the copyright registration application online or on paper. For paper applications, use form TX for literary works or form VA for visual art. You must include at least one copy of your comic creation with your electronic or paper application.

How Rappers Copyright Their Work

Rappers, producers and record labels need to protect their hip-hop music, rap lyrics and musical beats from unauthorized use, including sampling by other artists. A rapper or producer automatically secures a copyright in both the lyrics and the beat of a rap once it is created and fixed in a tangible form. Tangible forms include written song lyrics, sheet music and audio-visual recordings. Copyrights apply to both scripted lyrics with keyboard beats produced in a studio and improvisational raps with spontaneous instrumentals created live. However, a live performance must be captured in a tangible form to secure a copyright. Federal copyright registration provides a legal presumption of copyright ownership.

Copyright Registration Advantages & Disadvantages

Copyright protection ensures that creators of original works can profit from their creations, by protecting them against infringement by others who use the work without permission. Basic copyright protection attaches to an original work the moment it is fixed in a tangible format, such as writing a book or recording a song. Copyright registration is voluntary, but it does provide the copyright holder with significant advantages, especially when enforcing the copyright against infringement.

Related articles

A List of Copyright Rules & Procedures

Copyrights protect original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works. They prohibit anyone other than the author ...

How to Copyright Choreography

A copyright affords protection to creators and owners of unique intellectual property that is fixed in some permanent, ...

How to Copyright a Jingle

A jingle automatically qualifies for basic copyright protection the instant it is created and fixed in a tangible form. ...

How to Copyright Booklets

Copyrights encompass the right to reproduce and sell material you have created or to which you own the rights. Any work ...

Browse by category