Should I copyright my material before sending to my publisher? Can they steal my content?

  • 2
    Legal questions require specifying a jurisdiction, even though questions about copyright probably see less variance in this regard than many other subjects. I see that your profile says you're in India; are you interested in answers pertaining to India, or to some other country? – a CVn Apr 28 '18 at 18:47
  • I want answers pertaining to India only. – Abhishek dot py May 8 '18 at 18:21

Technically, your question is meaningless. By law, everything you write is copyrighted the instant you write it. You can REGISTER your copyright with the Library of Congress. This registration can be used as evidence that you did indeed write it, and gives you certain additional legal rights.

But more to the point, the answer is no, don't register the copyright before sending to a publisher. This jumps the gun in a number of ways. Almost every publisher will want to make editorial changes to your work, so a new copyright on the updated work would have to be registered anyway. And getting published means that you are selling certain rights. Part of the deal may be that you are selling all your rights. (Which you may be willing to agree to or not.) So any registration may have to be amended.

And even more to the point, publishers are not in the business of stealing the work of aspiring writers. As @cloudchaser says, if a publisher did this regularly the word would surely get out soon enough, and then no one would want to send them any submissions and they'd be ruined.

New writers are always asking, "how can I protect myself from my work being stolen?" Seriously, just don't worry about it. As a new writer, your problem is to get people to think that your work is valuable. Spend your efforts trying to write something good enough that someone would want to steal it.

(I once found that one of those services that sell pre-written term papers to cheating college students was selling an article that I wrote without my permission. My first thought was that it was great that people were actually willing to pay for copies of my article. I never bothered to do anything about it.)

  • +1 for "write someting worth stealing". Most submissions are utter crap and no one would want to steal it anyway. – user29032 Apr 29 '18 at 9:07
  • Also worth noting that even the fact that in the US copyright registration is sometimes required (although not prior to publication; registration only has any affect on copying that is done after publication) is the exception rather than the rule -- most countries do not have a formal registration process for copyright, and usually there are few if any formalities required in order to assert copyright. – Jules Apr 29 '18 at 11:57
  • Of course, it's certainly not unheard of for authors to go to court with publishers (or other people) over things like this. But these days there should be enough evidence to support your claim in the highly unlikely event that it happens. (For example, if you sent the publisher your manuscript as an attachment to an email message, there will be a history of that.) – Jason Bassford Apr 30 '18 at 2:19
  • This answer appears to assume USA without justification. – WGroleau Apr 30 '18 at 20:51
  • @WGroleau Fair enough. OP didn't specify a country so I assumed my own. – Jay May 1 '18 at 2:51

They can, but they won't.

A publisher who steals submissions will soon be out of work, because no one will want to work with them.

Also, once your text has gone through your beta readers you will have enough witnesses and several versions of your text, and proving that you have written it will be totally easy.

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