Is there any such thing as copyrighting a title?

A title of a novel / short story is usually short, up to five words or so. The words are chosen after much thought to reflect the contents of work. They are often common (everyday) words.

A typical example is a romance novel which may have a title such as "The man who stole my heart".

I understand there may be copyright protection for unusual titles but my question relates to use of common, everyday words in the title, as I have come across many books with the same or similar titles.

2 Answers 2


I Am Not A Lawyer

But in the United States, according to the U.S. Copyright Office, copyright protection is not available for "names, titles or short phrases" Source (PDF).

But there are a few things you should take note of if you're concerned about accidentally using the same title as another work. For one, brand names, slogans and phrases can be trademarked (which offers similar protections to copyright), so they should probably be avoided. For another, having the same or similar title as another book can make your book not only hard to find, but unoriginal too. Another thing to keep in mind is having a book with a similar title and similar content can open you up to the possibility of a lawsuit.

  • 1
    +1 This is right. In short, you can't copyright a title, but there are other reasons to avoid using one that has already been used. Commented Jun 13, 2013 at 6:02
  • 3
    Wait a minute. As I have understood it, copyright and trademark law are two very distinct things. You seem to be mixing the two. What gives?
    – user
    Commented Jun 13, 2013 at 9:56

While a title cannot be copyrighted, an author might choose a title for her work that infringes on a registered trademark. Different rules apply to trademarks, but that doesn't make their use as a title legal.

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