Why Not to Register Copyright for Unpublished Work

If you have an unpublished manuscript that you’re shopping to agents and/or publishers, or considering self-publishing, there’s no need to register your copyright prior to publication.


Well, for one thing, you’re fully protected by copyright law from the moment you fix your work in tangible form (write down the words). In countries that have an official copyright registration process–and many don’t–registration provides no additional copyright protection.

It does confer various legal benefits. Where available, official registration provides prima facie evidence of copyright ownership that can be used in court. In the USA (and only in the USA), registration is a pre-requisite for filing a copyright infringement lawsuit.

However, you are not in danger of copyright infringement at the submission stage. Many authors have an unreasonable fear of theft by agents and publishers–but good agents and publishers won’t risk their reputations this way, and in any case it’s easier just to work with you than go to all the trouble of stealing your work and pretending it belongs to someone else. As for bad agents and publishers…they aren’t interested in your work at all, only in your money.

It’s not until your manuscript will be exposed to a large audience–i.e., published–that you need to think about copyright registration. If you publish with a larger publishing house, the publisher will take care of this for you. For small presses , you may have to take care of it on your own. Ditto for self-publishing.

By the way, don’t be confused by the many faux registration services (such as this one or this one). Whatever datestamping or timestamping they provide is not a substitute for official registration–and possibly won’t hold up in court, since it can be faked. So-called “poor man’s copyright”–putting a manuscript in an envelope, mailing it to yourself, and retaining it unopened–is similarly useless, though it’s often touted online as a cheap registration substitute.

Why else might you want to avoid registering copyright for unpublished work? You may be solicited by questionable companies. Vanity publishers and dodgy literary agents have long used copyright registration lists (and magazine subscription lists) to troll for customers. Dorrance Publishing–an old-line vanity publisher that has re-tooled itself for the digital age–is a particular offender in this regard. Here’s an example, recently received by a writer who knew better than to respond:

Dear [name redacted],

One of our researchers has discovered your manuscript titled, [title redacted], registered with the Library of Congress and has forwarded your name to me as a possible candidate for publication with our company.

As an author, you are probably aware of (and perhaps have experienced) some of the problems of trying to get your work published by a commercial publisher. Just having your manuscript read by most commercial publishers is difficult and usually involves long delays.

Dorrance Publishing Company, Inc. provides a practical alternative for consideration by authors of book length fiction and nonfiction manuscripts, collections of poetry, collections of short stories, children’s books, etc., who wish to see their works in print.

The Dorrance name has been associated with a tradition of quality author services since 1920. I welcome the opportunity to discuss our services with you and to review your manuscript to determine whether it meets our requirements for publication, and if so, if we can be of help. You may submit your completed, typewritten manuscript to me for a no-fee, no-obligation review.

Also, I will be happy to send you a complimentary copy of our 32-page brochure, Author’s Guide to Subsidy Publishing. The brochure outlines our publishing programs, including the manner in which we mechanically edit, design, produce, and promote our books.

The email goes on to provide submission instructions. Note that, except for the word “subsidy” in the last paragraph, no mention whatever is made of fees. In fact, Dorrance charges thousands of dollars to publish.

For more on copyright, see the Copyright page of the Writer Beware website.


  1. I’ve noticed a confusing repetition in this blog,

    Victoria and others have mentioned that registering a copyright does not offer increased “protection” for a work. But the word “protection” is not really defined!

    If protection refers to additional security in some form — visual, psychological, etc. — against someone stealing your work, then maybe registration offers that with the © logo. If you’re referring to additional “protection” in terms of reimbursement, less time in court, or wider scope of protection, then likely not.

    Terms that are frequently used need to be clarified.

  2. I have a strange problem. Several years ago, new to the blogging world, I wanted to open a poetry blog and post my poetry under a pseudonym. Ignorant about a lot regarding copyright, and fearful that as soon as I posted anything, someone would just steal it for their own use, I took 35 of my works and sent them to the US Copyright Office for the $35 fee (as one collection of works).

    Since that time, a person in my neighborhood has taken to stalking me. He's very bright, PhD, has some sort of delusions about me. It occurred to me that this person, like anyone, could look up my name and find anything that is a matter of public record, which would include my registered copyrighted work. He could read it, request a copy of it, etc. This actually terrified me and the idea of copyright protection for a collection of my work meant nothing to me compared to the protection of my privacy and my family.

    I wrote a letter documenting my concerns, as I was told by the US Copyright office that in matters of safety concerns, changes to the copyright registration would be considered. I sent them their $130 fee just to read my letter pleading for them to delete the registered work, or delete my name from it, so that it could not be found by my stalker. My request was roundly denied, citing some terms in their law that say that unless I have a legal name change, I cannot change the name or delete the name on the registered work. Changing the address to a PO Box would mean nothing because it is my name that would lead someone to find my work. Deleting one's registered work altogether is not allowed.

    If I could at least have my name removed, I'd feel like this adequately protects against privacy and safety concerns. I don't know what to do. I have one month to submit a second petition, with another $60, to see if they will reconsider. I consulted (free of charge) with a copyright/intellectual property attorney and he started laughing at the thought of an author wishing to nullify their registered copyright; he said he'd never heard of such a thing. If anyone has suggestions on this, I would appreciate hearing them.

  3. I know an idea can’t be copyrighted, but it was more than an idea. I wrote down about six stories for her. They used those stories, just added to them. I paid for the copyright to the illustrations for my new book but because the order was canceled the seller hasn’t finished them and says they are hers. She has threatened to sell, or publish them. The book I’m writing is the first of a three part series. I invented the creatures, and created a whole world for them. I came up with their unique name, and look. I don’t use paper so there are no drafts laying around. I use ‘notes’ on my iPad, I don’t know if anyone is familiar with how this works, when you start it logs that date, but with each new addition it changes the date to that specific day. My last review of the story is dated about a month old. The first illustrator got it about 8 months ago, the one who is threatening has a copy dated 6 months ago. She has an older copy than me. Maybe someone knows more about notes than me and can tell me how to show I’ve had these stories for years? My biggest concern is that the words, and images will get out before I can get my book done. I won’t be able to do a thing with my story front and center on fiverr without my name or any credit given to me.

  4. Registration is de facto proof of ownership, but you can easily create an equally effective ownership record just by keeping drafts, notes, correspondence, and so on. As I mentioned above, most countries don't even have an official registration process (the Berne Convention guarantees copyright protection without the need for further legal steps)–and the United States is the only country that makes legal action contingent upon registration.

    The other disadvantage of registering prior to publication is that the manuscript you register may not be the final version (if, for instance, you manage to sell it to a traditional publisher and do a lot of developmental editing).

    Beware of fake registration services that offer (for a fee) to archive or timestamp your work. These likely wouldn't be considered by a court, because you have no way to prove that they're honest or reliable. Ditto for "poor man's copyright"–the myth that sealing your work in an envelope, sending it to yourself, and retaining it unopened is legal proof of ownership. It's not, because it's too easy to fake.

    Plagiarism and theft do happen _after_ works are published–especially nowadays, with the problem of book fakery on Amazon. But prior to publication, it really is about the lowest thing on a writer's worry list.

  5. Nope. Register your copyright. Saying you have protection from the time you write down the words is meaningless if you cannot prove you wrote the words before the thief. Create a legal record of your work so if it's stolen, the thief can't claim they wrote it first and that YOU are the thief.

  6. Eileen,

    To provide a very simplistic explanation of a complex issue, copyright associates your name with your work and prevents others from publishing your work without your name or with someone else's name (the right of attribution). Names themselves aren't subject to copyright, though, and people do have the same names, so if your name is Mary Smith and you publish a novel, there's nothing to prevent another Mary Smith from publishing her novel (nor should there be).

    Anonymous 7/05,

    Ideas aren't protected by copyright, so there's not much you could have done in situation with the family. As for your self-published work–make sure that whichever illustrator you use gives you the copyright to the illustrations they produce for you. Other than that, I don't think you need to worry about theft–it really is much, much rarer than many writers believe, especially at the pre-publication stage, and isn't usually a worry until the work is exposed to a wide audience–i.e., published.

    You're fully protected by copyright from the moment you write down the words. In the USA only, registering your copyright gives you additional legal rights (i.e., to sue in court if your work is infringed), but doesn't give you additional copyright protection (most countries have no official registration process). You should definitely register US copyright when you publish, but there's no need to do so until everything is finalized and publication is imminent. You can sue for a bigger bundle of damages if you register prior to publication, but even registering up to 5 years after publication allows you to sue for limited damages.

  7. I worked for a wealthy family as a baby sitter. I would make up all kinds of stories and tell it to the kids I made up stories about the family’s pets that the kids really loved. The mom once called me at home and asked me to explain this story her kids kept asking for. When I did she asked if I could write a couple down so she’d have some peace from them bugging her about it. I did. Several of their extended family heard about the stories. I’d been there for several years but noticed that of late the husband was acting differently around me. He eventually let his wife let me go saying I was too smart, and educated for the job. He said he wanted better things for me. Ok. I left, and they kindly offered to pay for me to move to another state. A little over a year later I was watching tv with my nieces and saw the exact pets I wrote about on a popular children’s program. The exact animals! I thought that’s so weird. That could have been me if I could’ve gotten published. I was so disappointed someone had done it before me. I ignored it till I watched it a different time and noticed a name I recognized. He and someone I didn’t know was credited with the idea for the show. I couldn’t believe it. I called the brother in law of the husband and asked about it. His response, ‘oh, you were the one telling those stories, I remember.’ When I asked if he thought what was done to me fair he said, ‘well it’s their pets, their kids, and they have totally revamped the whole thing anyway. Besides, they moved you across the country, that’s not cheap.’ And that was it. He thought I had nothing to be mad about. I’m worried now because I’m self publishing. My first illustrator quit after I had sent her the story for my new book. She was getting married. The next illustrator is on fiverr, and the website canceled because she broke the rules. She has my story. The new illustrator, has the story. She doesn’t format so I have to send the completed book when she’s done to someone else for formatting. They will have the story. Am a being paranoid, or should I register this before anyone else sees it? I know it’s an unpublished book, but does it matter if I register it before publication. Is it covered?

  8. Interesting thread! I am wondering about how copyrighting can protect the author's name from being used by another author…whether intentionally or just by happenstance. Does copyright protect the work AND the author's name from being used in literary works?

  9. HI, I want to share my experience with the copyright office. I did work with another Writer. He was established but we did work together every day. He requested to put only his name under copyright office and with respect to him and because I was young I did it. However he pass away and the work wasn't completed. I did work for 10 years to finish the work and to make it an excellent to make a movie. From 73 pages not finished work it went to 107 pages. I was able to make a movie and went to copyright office, but I got a rejection even I ahve been recognized with a license from the Co-writer's family and I had a testimony from a witness who also did work on the script for compensation. I still don't know how this is possible to get a rejection and do not be able to make a movie. My trust to copyright office disappear. It could be a frivoled decision.10 years working on someting are a great period of time from the human life and let's don't talk about the money spent.

  10. Andreana Komis,

    Yes, I am saying that you do not need to register your copyright before your work is unpublished. The chances that it will be infringed before publication, even at the submission stage, are infinitesimal–regardless of what you may have heard. Keeping files, notes, correspondence, etc. is amply sufficient to provide proof of ownership, should you ever need it.

  11. Hey, I don't want to talk about my issue, but are you saying I don't need to pay to copyright © registered before I publish or before its done even though Im 95 thousand words in the writting, but what I do have is a safety deposit box 🗃 at the bank downtown and I have it saved it in 7 different places in the box dated back a few years ago including on my computer and My file 📂 with the children's aid society has my file that lines up with many chapters and characters in my book. I have over 70 different editing pieces leading up to my story.

  12. It's not that data can't be transferred between a computer and a smartphone. It's that you can't do it via a smartphone charger cable. But I'm glad you're feeling less vulnerable.

  13. Hi Victoria,

    I felt so silly after you pointed out the fact that we can't transfer data from a pc to a smartphone. I did a quick search on Google and found it was actually possible to do that but it would require some effort from the pc itself. And obviously I did not make any effort to do that, so that means I am probably safe. I guess I'm realy getting old lol…

    So I'll be a happy writer again 🙂

    Happy November !

  14. Ed Hughes,

    Many authors are intensely fearful of intellectual property theft, but especially at the pre-publication stage, it really is incredibly rare. In the situation that you cite, the student didn't know you or anything about what you were working on, and it seems pretty unlikely that she would target you for theft. There's also the fact that you can't transmit data via a smartphone charger.

    I don't think you need to worry about this at all.

  15. Searching online for possible solution for my situation lead me to this blog and thought I'd post my question here.

    In the last 3 years I've been building a website at the same time writing articles (bolg posts) that go with the website. They were all original creative content and none of them were / are published. I've not registered copyright for any of the articles because I had to continually go back to them to edit them as I futher developed my website over time. I saved all articles on a flashdrive.

    In April this year (2018), I was in a well-known Southern California unversity campus working on my articles on my laptop. A young student suddenly came to me looking distressed saying she was waiting for her friends there but didn't see them and her cellphone battery was totally out. She asked to plug her cellphone to my laptop to recharge her cellphone. She looking seriously distressed about this, I felt symphathetic to her so I let her. Some time after she plugged her cell into my laptop, I realized the flashdrive in which all my articles were saved were still plugged in the USB drive. Since I couldn't see what she was really doing on her cellphone, I immediately felt uncomfortable and unplugged the flashdrive. I also have lots of articles and website-related materails saved on the harddrive of that laptop.

    Little did I expect at that monent this unexpected incident ended up haunting me for the following 6 months since. Did she steal my content on my flashdrive? my hard drive? Was she an onest person? Could she be such a villain that she not only stole my intellectual property but even registered copyright for herself or a thrid person?

    I'm now very close to publishing my website, and these articles, which will aslo be published as eBooks. This is my very first website and eBook. As a newbie with no previous track record, after publishing my content, I'm concerned should she indeed be a villain and steal / fradulently copyright my works and sued me (especially if my website / eBook become successful, thus famous), my reputation will go down the drain and my future will be ruined.

    So is there anything I can do now to protect myself? Or is it really too late?

    I know I may sound paranoid to some but a website is a small business that involves liability and i have to prepare for the worst. If the answer is the "death penalty", which means I'd have to give up on those articles, then at least I know I may have to start to re-write those articles, which also means re-design my webiste entirely, which will take months – if even possible.

    Any feedback will be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

  16. Unpublished means no one else has seen it. if you've let someone else see it, it's no longer unpublished, and you damn well better have registered it first.

    With this in mind, unpublished works are rarely stolen, because no one else has seen them.

  17. That $35 registration fee just allows you to, if someone does steal you work, pay thousands of dollars more in court to maybe defend against potential theft which if you never published that million dollar idea, you're not going to be able to afford anyway. So there truly is little point to registering something unpublished. I don't understand all the people insisting on a right to be paranoid but then toting overpriced numbers and far-fetched anecdotes, where that copyright probably would not have helped anyway.

  18. Etrigan,

    I won't admit I'm wrong because I'm not wrong.

    Theft. Of. Unpublished. Work. Is. Extremely. Unlikely. Even if the work is good enough to be worth stealing. Also, if you put it on your blog, it's no longer unpublished.

    Registration proves ownership, but so does keeping drafts and notes. And drafts and notes are free.

  19. Seems like you're one of those stubborn people who will never admit they're wrong due to pride.

    Any work that has been viewed by someone else can be stolen- whether published or not. If you email your cousin a copy of your short story, or put it on your blog before publication, it can be stolen. This is obvious.

    Having a legal record of ownership allows you to take action. Otherwise it's just your word against the plagiarizer's.

  20. At the risk of repeating myself…

    By law in most countries of the world, your work is copyright to you from the moment you write down the words. Not theoretically. Not technically. By law.

    Registering copyright–which is not even possible in most countries, since only the USA makes registration a pre-requisite to legal action–provides additional legal rights but does not increase or improve copyright protection.

    At the unpublished stage, infringement is rare. Again: infringement is EXTREMELY UNLIKELY for work that has not been published. It only becomes a concern once work is published, and exposed to a wide audience. I don't expect to convince anyone who doesn't already believe this–even so, it's true.

    Given the international scope of publishing today–which makes it likely that your work will appear in the USA even if you publish from another country–it is a good idea to register US copyright. But only on publication. There is no need to register copyright for unpublished work.

  21. GTTG i agree with you 100%, im really raking my brain to figure out why people keep suggesting not to copyright their manuscript, yes once you write it its technically copywriten but it doesnt guarantee it will hold up in court. Its $35. EVERY book you read the first page is a copyright and a threat. It makes me wonder the motivation behind people suggesting not to copyright their work.

  22. The copyright office don't protect unpublished work, I thought they did, they allow for others to pay to view your work. Disgusting.

  23. ShieldCrest are still dragging this out and have offered a refund for the 12 books going to e.g. The Bodleian Library Oxford etc. and the PDF with a note 'If I can find someone, to get my book published elsewhere.' Some £125 which apparently they consider fair. This is a copout! There are only five official places to register my book not twelve. Others named e.g. Waterstones and Smiths have informed me that they do not take self published books. Also, they are still asking to publish my book on one hand and threatening to publish it with all of its errors on the other. Confused? I am. I am taking them to court. All comments gratefully appreciated. Cheers Victoria for taking the time to puiblish this.

    Carol Fisher

  24. I have come across a bad publisher. ShieldCrest of Aylesbury. They want me to pay for the errors caused in their wrong reformatting.They admitted then retracted it. They term me vindictive. Have sent emails in red staing that they will publish all of my books with all of the errors as they want me to pay for the amendments. The cover is not complete, being termed black characters on blue and white blobs as the white was left in to break up the monotonous blue. Now the blue is also purple but still with white blobs. They tried to charge me for a bespoke cover which I designed. I have not sorted out all of the amendments. They have omitted, deleted, changed text and moved chapters without consultation. Their emails are rude and threatening and they threatened after me making a query, that they would 'publish my book with all of the errors in it so that it would not sit on the shelf with professionally published books.' Now they are doing just that. They terminated the contract on 14 June 2016 but still keep emailing me for money. They do not recognise the terminated contract which they wrote. I wrote a negative review becuse they would not take my concerns seriously and they refused to move forward with my book until I took down the review-Breach of Contract- I have now told them that as I have copyright, I withdrew my copyright 05 July 2016 to stop them publishing my book with all of the errors in it. Their own blog page-Steve Robson at ShieldCrest states that self publishers rip off clients and it is full of grammar, spelling and punctuation mistakes. So much for someone that claims to be the No1 Publisher. I have now found other bad blogs about thyem on the net. Wish that I had seen them before I paid in full in advance for my book.Any advice would be gratefully appreciated. be gratefully received.

  25. As a person that has also had a large amount of intellectual property stolen, the words "the manuscript is copy written from the moment you write the words" have not done a single thing to ease my distress in finding others profiting from my life's work. I urge everyone to spend the money to protect their work.

  26. Thanks so much for your feedback.

    I just have a different perspective from you based on my experiences; I had a working manuscript stolen and it's hard to prove in court – that's my experience. There is no science to this; it's a perspective based on experience. With that written, my estimates were within a range based on submitting multiple works. I am not being ripped-off — not new to the rodeo.

  27. Your manuscript is copyrighted from the moment you write the words. It's really not necessary to register copyright unless and until the ms. will be published. Also, registration with the US Copyright Office costs just $35 if you do it online–if you're paying $100-$150 for copyright registration, you're being ripped off.

  28. If you have a manuscript that you intend to publish, copyright your manuscript. It's that simple. It's affordable and just makes sense. I have had working papers and manuscripts stolen. At some point, if you write a lot and assuming you are good, someone is going to steal your work. It's pointless, in my opinion, to go after every person for every piece. However for the piece that counts (the one that can change your life), it's just not good business sense to skip out on a $100 – $150 feel for something that can generate you hundreds of thousands if not more.

  29. Better than the alternative…

    "Comrade, your submission is splendidly written! You can go back now to the uranium mine proudly knowing that this work of yours has furthered the cause of the revolution!"

    Or they don't like it and shoot you for being counter-revolutionary.

    Either way I'll take me a helping of capitalism thanks.

  30. I recieved the same email, and also did not respond. However, my contact was after registration with the Library of Congress.

    I do not have a problem with a legitimate business following up leads to generate business. That is, after all, what business is all about. However, someone who was a little less inclined to be skeptical might easily have let out a "squee!" and jumped at the offer.

    The point is, this is just one of the hedgerows we must leap in the publishing process. Ain't capitalism grand?

  31. for unpublished work, at the submission stage, it really is not necessary

    About 10 years ago,when I was 20, I liked to write small stories, just for fun. Since I'm poor I can't afford registering nothing. Long story short, somebody stole the notebook where I kept the stories. Now you can see two USA TV programs using my plots and according to my online research, earning millions. I know for sure those are my stories, because they are even using the same names for characters and world-related terms!

    I won a scholarship in a script writing institute and commented to my teachers about that notebook and guess what: One of them told me to sent him another of my stories by e-mail (that I still keep), so he could check if it was good and then send it to a contest made by the mexican government. I did it and… never heard of the teacher or the school again. But the winner of that contest was a woman with a story so similar to mine that I decided never wrote a word again. I was thinking in starting a blog to show some new ideas I have but after reading all the comments here I think I won't. It just doesn't worth it. And not for the money, since I have never had it, but seeing all their success with my ideas is killing me (Still I don't know what to do since I'm making games based on my stories, so same problems 🙁 ).

    People, paranoia or not, if you ever write anything, REGISTER IT IMMEDIATELY.

  32. I believe the CO would treat an about-to-be-published as unpublished, in terms of registration and submission requuirements. Also, I don't think it's legally clear whether a blog is published or not, and if I had one and I had any idea of ever using the material for magazine articles or a book, I'd be periodically registering hunks of it as unpublished and later, register the magazine article or book as published.

  33. Frances, I agree with you that registration is important for published or about-to-be-published work (i.e., work for which the author has a firm publishing commitment). Your examples demonstrate this. My point in this post is that for unpublished work, at the submission stage, it really is not necessary.

  34. Also, I am afraid you may sometimes have to worry about other authors. Here is an experience of mine:

    For two or three years, my articles were frequently published in a certain magazine on vintage clothing. The publisher had a group of magazines focusing on various hobbies. As far as I know they were reputable. I always sold them first serial rights only. I subscribed to the magazine because I liked it and it is often hard to get tear sheets out of editors. Then the publishing group was bought by another company. Not long afterward, I opened the latest monthly issue and hit the roof. An article of mine that had been published in that same magazine less than a year previously was repeated, word for word, 2,000 words, under another “author’s” name.

    Of course I contacted the new publisher, who swore it was not their fault and who said they were unable to contact the plagiarizer because she was refusing to answer their phone calls, so they could do nothing substantial about it. (They did write me a check for a couple of hundred dollars, big deal.) It’s not like I could afford to sue, and shortly thereafter, the new publisher ceased to publish that magazine.

    Around that time, my articles were also frequently published in a certain antiques magazine. A new magazine on vintage clothing started up soon after the one I already mentioned went under. This was an “indie” publication of decidedly uneven quality, run by two people. Shortly after they started up, I noticed that they were regularly publishing articles of mine that had previously been published in the antiques magazine, all under the name of the same person who had plagiarized me before. Oh, this time the “author” went to the effort of changing about one word per sentence, but otherwise the articles were identical. I called up one of the owners/editors and pointed out all this. She said, “Well, you say you published it first and so does she, and I just never get involved these little personal arguments.” (BTW, I have never met or had any direct contact with the other “author.”) I pointed out that copyright is a matter of federal law and international law. She seemed a little shaken but said she just didn’t know anything about copyright. And the magazine kept right on publishing the plagiarized articles for a year or so, till they went out of business, as they richly deserved.

    I also saw the same “author” plagiarize other people’s work with minor changes, but my primary concern was my own work. And it’s just too expensive to sue over most magazine articles.

    This experience gave me a permanent fear of exposing my work to other authors before registration.

  35. In the current copyright climate it is a very good idea for creators of short stories, essays, articles, poems, drawings, photos, and other not-yet-published material due to appear in periodicals and anthologies, to register that material separately from the periodical or anthology’s registration. You can register a group of items in one batch to save on the fees. Authors, myself included, used to think that the publisher’s copyright registration of the whole work after publication was sufficient coverage. I am not a lawyer, but it seems that the ever-growing body of entities who are mass-scanning publications to be downloaded from databases (free or fee), to be put online free to garner ad sales, and many other uses, are legally arguing that the publisher’s registration only covers the compilation, essentially the work of editorial selection, not the individual story, article, etc., because the author did not personally register his/her own work. I have certainly found a fair number of my own magazine articles (to which I still own appropriate rights) in online databases where the database publisher was charging users to download it, with no payment to me and no notification to me.

    You can register your story, article, etc., shortly after publication but then, it might be harder for you to get a batch of stories or whatever together to reduce the fee.

    Here is where I show even more that I am not a lawyer, but: Since US copyright procedures have not caught up to the online world (and I am *not*, as many do, using that argument to advocate piracy) I think it may be unclear whether a continually changing blog or website is published or not. I mean yes, you should put a copyright notice on it, but if anyone violated your copyright (and people do), it might be very hard to prove in court whether you posted the material before they did, which might be as much proof as there is of who really created it. If I were putting material I had first posted online into a book, I would probably register it beforehand.

  36. If you register your work too soon in the editorial process, you may have to copyright it a second time because you've changed it so much.

    I don't recall the percentage, but it is mentioned on the US government copyright site.

  37. I'm one of the ones who tried to "copyright" his work when he was querying. I still have the sealed registered letter with a thumbdrive inside with my manuscript on it. Of course now I know that there's really no practical risk of a publisher or agent stealing your work.

  38. The Copyright Office's new pre-registration procedure does have one major advantage. It allows you to make a strong legal case that you were drafting a particular plot using a certain set of characters at a specific time.

    Later, if someone accuses you of stealing their work, they'll probably have to prove publication prior to when you submitted what the copyright office calls "as full a description of the work as possible" rather than publication prior to your publication.

    If you've got a hot idea for a novel or a screenplay, preregistering an overview could allow you to relax and better refine the plot rather than rushing to print, fearful someone will beat you to publication.

    There's more about preregistration here:


    Note that it isn't cheap. Filing is $115 per application.

  39. Helpful post.I'm going the self publishing route to see how it is.I'm think about publishing a short story to start off with.I'm kind of nervous about it,but I going to have a go at it,to see what's it like.

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