On author sites like youwriteon.com (which I reviewed here), you sometimes see adverts for services like this one:
These companies typically charge a fee for "registering" your copyright for a period of years. Some of the sites even look a bit like official agencies (they are not - they are businesses who are in it for a profit).
So is there any value in registering your copyright with them? I dare say some authors are tempted to part with their hard earned cash, because if you have spent hundreds of hours writing a novel, then paying a fee in low double figures with a view to protecting it may seem a sensible investment. But is it really worth the money?
In the UK, there is no official copyright register. Copyright arises automatically when you have written your novel, short story etc. Some countries, like the US, have official, government-run copyright registers - and my understanding is that you cannot sue for copyright infringement there until you have registered (although failure to register doesn't mean you don't have copyright in your work - it just means you may not be able to take action to enforce it). So in those countries there may be some benefit to registration (but probably only if you think that you may make a reasonable amount of money from your work). In the UK, however, there are only private (unofficial) registration services.
The only benefit that these services offer is that they may make it easier for you to prove that you actually wrote your story when you say you wrote it. For example, if you are suing someone for copying your work, they might deny copying it and claim that they were the ones who actually wrote it. If you have registered your work with one of these private services, that could be useful evidence (but not absolute proof) that they are lying and you are the one who actually created your work.
But ask yourself whether it is worth paying £20-40 for this, when you could get much the same protection for far less money. For example, as suggested here, you could seal a copy of your work in an envelope and post it to yourself by registered post; it will then have a date stamp, which will be evidence of when you finished it (don't unseal the envelope, just keep it in a safe place).
You should also make sure you keep earlier drafts of your work, preferably in electronic form so that they have edit dates on them. Again, this is all useful evidence to show that you were the person who the wrote the work and that you created it when you say you did.
So unless you think you are going to make loads of money from your work, I would think twice about spending money on registration, at least so far as the UK is concerned (in the US and elsewhere, it's possible that registration may have more advantages). I certainly haven't bothered with it myself.
Now you might say, well, you're offering your fiction for free, so what do you care? But I have had to assert my copyright when attempting to get pirated copies removed from Amazon, so it's not as if I don't set any store by it - I just don't think the UK registration services are worth the money.
Posted by Paul Samael. Posted In : Self-publishing