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How to Copyright Ebooks


An ebook or electronic book is the digital equivalent of a traditional print book. It can be downloaded via the Internet and read using a computer or an ebook reader. According Title 17 of the U.S. Code, copyright laws protect the ownership rights of the authors of original works.

Write an ebook. As the original author, you own the copyright to your work from the moment it is created. According to the U.S. Copyright Office, an ebook created on or after January 1, 1978 is automatically copyright protected for 70 years after the author's death. Registration through the Copyright Office is not necessary to be protected by copyright law. Anything written ("notated or recorded") in a fixed form, in this case the form of an ebook, is automatically copyrighted. Only the author owns the copyright, unless the author has legally transferred the rights to another party (in writing). The use of a copyright notice is not required.

Register your copyright. Even though the copyright is automatically conferred to the author upon creation of the original ebook, there are legal advantages to having a pubic record proving the fact. You need a public record, for example, before filing an infringement lawsuit. If you register your copyright within five years of publication, the registration proves the copyright's validity. If you register within three months of publication, statutory damages and attorney's fees are available to the author or copyright owner in court proceedings. Otherwise, you can only sue for damages and profits. Registration of copyright also protects you against importation of copies infringing the copyright, if you record the registration with the U.S. Customs Service.

Visit the Electronic Copyright Office (eCO) to register your copyright electronically for $35. It features online tracking, has the fastest processing time and is the cheapest of three options. Go to the eCO site to register digitally via the link in Resources below. You can also fill out an online form, print it and send it along with $50 and copies of your work or register entirely via paper for $65. Both methods require sending registration materials to the Copyright Office via U.S. mail.

About the Author

Elaine Riot has been writing professionally since 2001. Her work has been published online; in quarterly business, arts and education publications; and in B2B and consumer magazines. A natural wordsmith, Riot writes effective copy for a diverse clientele, including the University of Washington, Vulcan, Inc. and Amazon.com. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Texas at Austin.

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