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From Karen Saunders

Your Branding, Marketing & Self-Publishing Coach

Copyright Tips for Self-Publishers and Authors

Joyce Miller's Copyright Tips for Self-publishersThis compilation of copyright tips for self-publishers was written by Joyce Miller, one of the experts on my team who specializes in copyright clearance and permissions tracking. Here is her article:

In today’s marketplace, whether you are a web designer, an author, a marketing specialist, or any other kind of creative professional, it is imperative that you have some knowledge of copyright laws and understand how to protect your work. Below are some copyright tips for self-publishers.

Whether your valued work is a book, an image, a blog entry, or a website page, you should place a copyright notice on it that says to the world, “This is my work. I value it.”  A copyright notice consists of the copyright symbol, the year of copyright, and your name, and it should look something like this:

© 2010 John Doe

Another smart move is to always give the reader who may wish to use your work an indication of how you view that activity.

  • If you do not wish anyone to use your work without your permission, you may want to use a detailed statement that your work is not offered for copying without express permission except in a fair use case.  See below.
    • All rights reserved.  No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilized in any form or by any electronic means now known or hereafter invented without the express permission in writing from the copyright holder.
  • If you don’t mind sharing your work under certain circumstances, you may wish to use one of the six Creative Commons licenses. With these licenses you may choose the circumstances in which you are willing to share your work.  Creative Commons licenses are represented by symbols. You may use them to show what you will allow others to do with your work.

For example, you may allow copying in part or in full as long as you are credited for the work.  You may allow your work to be changed. In other words, you may allow someone else to make a derivative of it.

There is one important aspect of a Creative Commons license that you should consider before offering your work under such a license. It is in one sense non-revocable. In other words, you may remove the license from your work after you have placed it there. However, anyone who has used your work in a work of their own while yours was under a Creative Commons license may continue to distribute their work after you have removed the Creative Commons license.

  • If you want to control the uses others make of your work, always place information about how to obtain your permission such as an email address or a mailing address in an obvious location such as your homepage or copyright page.
  • Another important activity in protecting your work is registration with the US Copyright Office.  This may be accomplished online and is fairly inexpensive.  It is true that your work is copyrighted in the U.S.A. from the moment it is created. However, to sue someone for copyright infringement, you must have federally registered it. If you wait to file a claim until you have been infringed upon, you will have to wait for your registration to be accepted and this can take many months.  You may pay a fee to expedite registration, but this fee is quite high. Also, if you do not file copyright registration within three months of creation or of publication, you will not be able to collect statutory damages in the event you win a suit. These damages are normally much higher than any actual damages you may be able to prove.

For information on filing a registration for a website, a book, or an image, go to the US Copyright Office website and click on the eCO login button under “How to Register a Work.”

Taking a few precautions like the ones above can save you a lot of frustration and regret later on.


Joyce Miller is founder and co-owner of Integrated Writer Services, LLC. She conducts copyright workshops, teleseminars, and training sessions for illustrators, web designers, marketing professionals, authors, and artists. Joyce offers copyright project management, copyright research, and permissions tracking for items such as prose and poetry quotations, maps, photographs, song lyrics, graphic design works, and works of fine art.

She direct clients in taking steps to protect their work on websites and blogs, in articles, and in books from claims of copyright infringement and plagiarism. She also aids clients in addressing how to protect copyright in their own work. For consultation, permissions tracking, project management, and general information on copyright clearance issues, visit her website or send her an email at