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I would like to publish an ebook with amazon and i dont have time/money to keep copyrights with a lawyer. I am in EU, are there any ways to minimally protect my copyright?

Maybe i can send the wordfile to my email account as basic proof that i wrote the text first?

  • In the US, a "poor man's copyright" is mailing yourself a copy of the manuscript and never opening it. This is not actually a copyright in the US or, to my knowledge, anywhere else; however, should someone steal your intellectual property, you do have proof of having written it before the postmark date. (Your email idea is similar in concept.) If you don't do it through official channels, I would utilize as many of these "tricks" as possible. And for what it's worth, material isn't stolen from writers very often, especially from a major source such as Amazon. – Josh Oct 28 '15 at 12:29
  • @josh The "poor man's copyright" isn't worth anything, one could simply mail an unsealed envelope, then at a later date load and seal in anything that one wants to appear to have written at a previous date. – esoterik Nov 17 '15 at 2:32
  • @josh but when done electronicaly with email? Emails cannot be fooled? – SeaMist May 3 '16 at 11:55
  • In my experience, anything electronic can be forged by someone with enough skill. If you choose any alternative to a copyright, it will only be useful is if your work is actually stolen and you end sue, in which case the thief's lawyers will try to discredit your evidence and have experts explain how you could have forged it. If they have obtained a copyright on your stolen work, you'll be facing an uphill battle at best and have no case at worst. A copyright is still your best bet. If your country has a writers guild, they may be able to assist you and/or provide independent certification. – Josh May 3 '16 at 17:03
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You do not need a lawyer to assert a copyright. I've registered copyrights on three books and two web sites and I've never used a lawyer.

You don't say what country you're from and I don't know the procedures to register a copyright in any country other than the U.S. anyway. But here in the U.S., to register a copyright you fill out a form on the copyright office's web site and mail them two copies of your book. For a book, there is a fee of $30. (Fees for other things, songs, films, etc, vary.) That's it. You don't need a lawyer, and I don't know what a lawyer would do besides charge you a bunch of money to read the questions on the form to you and write down your answers. There are no tricky legal questions. It's things like the title of the book, the name of the author, and whether there is material in your book that you are not claiming copyright in, like if you have quotes from Shakespeare, you're presumably not claiming to own the rights to Shakespeare's plays.

I often hear people talk of mailing a copy of their book to themselves rather than registering the copyright. I don't see the point. The fee to register isn't that big. Is $30 really a huge hurdle? In exchange for that $30 you get the power of the copyright office behind your claim to have written this book, versus trying to argue in court that some alternative proof you have come up with should carry weight. I've never heard of someone keeping a copy with a lawyer. Presumably a lawyer would charge you a lot more than $30, and would have considerably less weight in court than a legal registration.

As I say, I'm in the U.S. Maybe procedures in your country are different. Tell us what country you're from and maybe someone can give you more specific advice.

  • I'm in EUropean Union (south Cyprus). Thanks for the reply! – SeaMist May 3 '16 at 12:09
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I am not a lawyer, but here are some basic thoughts and suggestions:

Maybe i can send the wordfile to my email account as basic proof that i wrote the text first?

You could, but I would not rely on this. International copyright protection can be a bit complex, but for most copyright to apply you have to "publish" you work or otherwise make it available to the public. The simplest way to do this is putting it in a physical form. I would suggest printing at least two copies of the final work and/or perhaps putting the work on multiple dated CD/DVD ROMs. Paper is likely a safer bet. Put an offer somewhere on the internet (where you can point to later if need be) to allow people to "buy" them (or maybe print a few dated "order forms").

I also would make sure to use a copyright symbol in your final work to help satisfy the Universal Copyright Convention.

Whenever Amazon "publishes" your work, this might count for copyright as well, but this may not be as reliable in the United States:

From Wikipedia - Berne Convention

"In the internet age, unrestricted publication online may be considered publication in every sufficiently internet-connected jurisdiction in the world. It is not clear what this may mean for determining "country of origin". In Kernel v. Mosley, a U.S. court "concluded that a work created outside of the United States, uploaded in Australia and owned by a company registered in Finland was nonetheless a U.S. work by virtue of its being published online". However other U.S. courts in similar situations have reached different conclusions, e.g. Håkan Moberg v. 33T LLC. The matter of determining the country of origin for digital publication remains a topic of controversy among law academics as well."

Remember that country of origin can affect how international copyright is applied.

Below are some links and excerpts to consider regarding "physical" publication:

From Copyright.gov (United States)

"There are two principal international copyright conventions, the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (Berne Convention) and the Universal Copyright Convention (UCC). [...] An author who desires copyright protection for his or her work in a particular country should first determine the extent of protection available to works of foreign authors in that country. If possible, this should be done before the work is published anywhere, because protection may depend on the facts existing at the time of first publication.

From Wikipedia - Publication

"In the Universal Copyright Convention [UCC], "publication" is defined in article VI as "the reproduction in tangible form and the general distribution to the public of copies of a work from which it can be read or otherwise visually perceived."

More from Wikipedia - Berne Convention

"Under Article 3, the protection of the Convention applies to nationals and residents of signatory countries, and to works first published or simultaneously published (under Article 3(4), "simultaneously" is defined as "within 30 days") in a signatory country."

From the Berne Convention Article 3

"(3) The expression “published works” means works published with the consent of their authors, whatever may be the means of manufacture of the copies, provided that the availability of such copies has been such as to satisfy the reasonable requirements of the public, having regard to the nature of the work. The performance of a dramatic, dramatico-musical, cinematographic or musical work, the public recitation of a literary work, the communication by wire or the broadcasting of literary or artistic works, the exhibition of a work of art and the construction of a work of architecture shall not constitute publication."

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If you are going to publish through Amazon, simply include a copyright notice at the beginning of your book. This will usually appear at the bottom of a page by itself in small print just after your title page. It can be something as simple as this:

Copyright 2015, Author Name, All rights reserved

Every country has different guidelines regarding copyright, but pretty much every country will accept this format. You do not need a lawyer because virtually all countries agree that once you write something, you own the copyright to it, but you should look into the specific guidelines for your own particular country. Just mailing (or e-mailing) a copy to yourself does not do anything at all to constitute or establish your copyright.

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