Self-publishing and copyright

One of the more frequent questions we get asked about by authors who are self-publishing is about copyright, or, more specifically, how they can protect or register the copyright in their book. 

It is a very reasonable question and one, thankfully, with a relatively simple answer. 

Firstly, within the EU, there is no ‘registration’ process for copyright. The act of writing automatically creates your copyright. There is nothing you need to do, and certainly nothing you need to pay for. 

Most books will include a copyright page, usually on page 4, on the inside left. This will usually state who the publisher is, who the copyright holder is, (normally the author) and the year of publication. 

This is essentially an ‘assertion’ of copyright. What that means is that you are letting any readers, researchers or others know who the copyright holder is. They may want to quote you, translate your work or buy the rights for a certain country, or they may just be looking to see when your book was first published. 

Effectively, it allows people who want to find the copyright holder to find the copyright holder easily. 

It won’t stop piracy, of course, or plagiarism. These things will always happen, to an extent. It is often described as something with simply ‘keeps honest people honest’. 

A related question that tends to follow from authors is whether it is safe to send their manuscript to a publisher. What we would say to this is that is that for any reputable publisher or publishing services company, they have a job to do, which involves working with authors to publish their books. Their reputation is vital to them, and if a publisher ever stole the work of an author, that would be the end of that reputation. It really wouldn’t make sense for them to ever do it, as a result, as they could only do it once.

A prospective author should always research a publisher before sending material to them, of course, but once this has been done, it would be very rare for an author ever to experience a problem with the use of their material.