The question is pretty much what the title is. I do know that all intellectual property is protected by copyright law from the moment of it's creation. I have backed up my work with several methods, some of which are fairly paranoid. On every book there is a copyright page and usually it says:

"Copyright C #### by blah blah blah inc."

Since I am self-publishing I need to know what I should put on my copyright page.

  • It depends on what rights you want to assert, what kind of work you have produced, and where you are located.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Commented Jul 13, 2015 at 16:33
  • For now I would like to keep as many rights as possible. The work is fictional, and I am located in Minnesota, USA.
    – user8727
    Commented Jul 13, 2015 at 16:48

4 Answers 4


First: I am not a lawyer. Purchase a copy of the indispensable The Copyright Handbook. It is very readable and very informative.

On my copyright information pages, I include four kinds of information:

  • Publication info
  • Copyright notices
  • Warning statement
  • Fiction disclaimer

Publication Info

I list these items, which identify the publication and publisher:

  • Book title
  • Publisher name
  • Publisher URL
  • ISBN

Copyright Notices

I include copyright notices for the text, cover design, cover art, and (for paperbacks) interior design.

© 2014 by Dale Hartley Emery

Cover design © 2014 by Driscoll Brook Press

Cover art © Garuti | Dreamstime.com

Warning Statement

Next comes a warning statement: An explanatory statement about the copyrights:

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or used in any manner without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

According to The Copyright Handbook, that first sentence--all rights reserved--is no longer necessary, but it's still common.

For ebooks, I insert an additional warning statement above the standard one:

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you're reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favorite ebook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Fiction Disclaimer

I end the page with this fiction disclaimer:

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author's imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

It is unclear whether such disclaimers have any useful legal effect.

Placement of the Copyright Information Page

For paperbacks, I place the copyright information page on the back of the title page.

For ebooks, I include a few copyright details at the bottom of the title page:

  • Copyright notice for the text.
  • A link to the full copyright information page.

Then I put the full copyright information page at the end of the book. The reason I do this is that many book retailers automatically create samples. The samples are typically a percentage of the book (calculated by proprietary algorithms). The automatically created samples always start at the beginning of the book.

I don't want readers who sample my books to have to wade through the copyright details.

And I don't want the copyright page to take up valuable space in the sample. Now, for many books, the copyright page doesn't take much space. But I often publish standalone stories as short as 3000 words. The copyright page eats up too much of the sample space for those. I'd rather have readers reading my thrilling prose.


Take a look at the copyright pages of a few traditionally published books. They all include similar kinds of information, though the specific statements and wording vary considerably.

Again, I don't know the specific legal effects of these variations.

  • No mention of Creative Commons licensing?
    – Tanath
    Commented Jul 16, 2015 at 4:17
  • Given the comments on the original question, I get the impression that CC doesn't fit the OP's needs. I may be wrong. And I don't use CC or similar licenses for my fiction, so I don't have advice about that. It's an interesting option to consider, so I hope you add an answer. Commented Jul 16, 2015 at 6:08

If you're self-publishing and not doing it through a company, use your real name: "Copyright (C) 2015 John Doe". Under the Berne Convention (which applies in most countries), you own the copyright from the moment of creation until you assign it away. You have no need to assign it away, so you don't need a company there.

You could set up a sole-proprietorship corporation if you want something there that looks like a publishing company instead of a person, but that's a lot of work for little gain. Unless you're setting up such a company anyway for financial reasons, I suggest you just stick with your name. That way it's easier to prove that you're the copyright owner if you're ever involved in a dispute.

  • A business name with a presence on the web can make a book somewhat more attractive to book stores. A "Doing Business As" (DBA) company is fairly inexpensive to set up. Mine cost about $150 to establish, including fees to Sacramento and California. And $30 per year in business taxes. (DBA income is just personal income). I claim copyright to the text in my own name, and other rights (cover design, interior design) under my business name. Commented Jul 13, 2015 at 23:56
  • @DaleHartleyEmery thanks; I didn't know DBA was that accessible. I was considering deleting my answer in light of your far-superior one anyway, and now with this additional info it seems clear that mine misses the mark. Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 2:02
  • I think the copyrights on most books, and especially on fiction, are held by the author and not sold to any company. Pull a few novels off your book shelf or visit a bookstore. They almost always say, e.g. "Copyright William Goldman", not "Copyright Harcourt Inc". I've created a company to publish my books, but I keep the copyright in my own name.
    – Jay
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 3:47
  • Jay, that's my sense of it, too. Every now and then an author will set up a company. John Grisham uses Belfry Holdings, Inc. But usually the author holds the copyright personally. Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 5:13

Legally, in the US that page is unnecessary.

Since April 1 1989 the copyright notice has become obsolete in the US and you no longer need to register your copyright. You automatically own the copyright in your work upon creation. Today, the sole purpose of the copyright notice is to tell anyone interested in using your content who they need to contact to ask for permission. Works without copyright notice are still copyrighted. The only difference is that you don't easily know by whom.

In the UK and German speaking countries, the publisher of the book must be given (so that that everyone knows whom to sue if the content is illegal). This "imprint" is not necessary in the US.

From a legal perspective, that page can be blank or contain whatever you please, without any disadvantage to you.

This is what I learned from reading legal advice on the net. It may be wrong. So ask a lawyer. Doing business without legal advice is not recommended.


Are you asking simply about the copyright statement, or about all that stuff that gets put on the copyright page?

If you're just worried about the copyright statement: Put "Copyright 2015 by Fred Smith", filling in whatever the year is that you first publish your book, and your name.

It is a very good idea to register your copyright. As you said you are in the U.S., you do that with the U.S. copyright office, copyright.gov. For a book it costs $50. You have to fill out a form that's fairly long but not difficult. Mostly it's obvious stuff, like name of the author, title of the book, etc. Unless someone else paid you to write it, it is NOT a "work for hire". If you included material created by someone else -- like you include a quote from George Washington or the lyrics of a pop song -- then whether you got explicit permission, or whether you are relying on the "fair use doctrine", you have to specify just what was created by you that your are claiming copyright to, and what was created by others. Like my last book included a bunch of Bible quotes, so I had to specify that I am not claiming that I wrote the Bible. (Presumably the folks at the copyright office know that, but there are plenty of cases where it would not be so obvious.)

If you mean the whole copyright page: I think the easiest answer is to say, look at copyright pages in other books, and see what sort of things they include. Typically you'll include your own copyright notice, the ISBN and LCCN if you have one, and disclaimers for material you used that you did not write yourself.

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