One of the perks of self-publishing is that your book’s rights belong to you.
But how do you make sure your book’s copyright is really yours in the first place?
Copyright literally means “the right to copy.” Whoever holds it holds the right to publish, produce and reproduce a book. As an author who is either a citizen of Canada or currently residing in Canada, you hold the copyright of your work by virtue of having written it.
Although being the author of your book entitles you to the copyright, the fact that you wrote your book does not necessarily provide evidence of copyright. In other words: you wrote it, so the copyright technically belongs to you, but if someone were to contest you in court, it’s basically just your word against theirs unless you have evidence to back your claim.
Which is why it’s possible—and recommended—to register your published book’s copyright in your name.
Whether you’ve recently published a book or you’ve just put the finishing touches to your manuscript and are thinking of submitting it to publishing companies, there are two generally accepted ways of establishing evidence of copyright.
The poor man’s copyright
The unofficial way of establishing evidence of copyright, also known as “poor man’s copyright,” is to mail yourself a date-registered copy of your manuscript.
Seal a printed copy of your manuscript in an envelope, bring it to your local Canada Post office and have it mailed to your own address. Make sure the parcel is tracked and date-registered: the time-stamp provided by the postal service (an official government agency) is the crucial element in establishing ownership of your work on that specific date.
When you receive the time-stamped manuscript in the mail, don’t open it—tuck it away somewhere safe and make sure it stays sealed. Should the copyright of your work ever be contested in court, the sealed manuscript will provide dated evidence that the manuscript was in your possession as of the date it was mailed.
Registering a copyright with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office
For those who like to do things the official way, it’s possible to register one’s copyright directly with the government. The legal jargon of Canada’s Copyright Act and the complicated maze of information that is the Government of Canada’s website make it seem more complicated than it is, but it’s actually quite simple.
In order to register a copyright, you’ll need to fill and mail this form. You don’t even need to send in your manuscript (they actually ask that you don’t, as they won’t have time to read it). It costs 130$ to register a copyright.
It’s even possible to register a copyright online. It’s faster and gets you a 15$ discount on application and processing fees.
ISBN, legal deposit and copyright
Many authors ask us if getting an ISBN or making a legal deposit constitute evidence of copyright. The short answer: they do not.
An ISBN is a unique identifier that allows your book to be tracked through whatever sales channels you’re using to sell your book. Getting an ISBN for your book does not equal registering for copyright. (Read this article from our blog to learn more about ISBNs and how to get one.)
The same goes for legal deposits. A legal deposit means involves submitting a copy of your book to be included in Canada’s cultural heritage. As with the poor man’s copyright, a legal deposit does provide evidence that the work was in your possession at the moment of registering the legal deposit. However, it doesn’t substitute the registration of a copyright.
So, if you’re short on cash and in a rush, starting by mailing a copy of your manuscript to yourself might help you sleep sounder at night. However, once you have the time and a bit of disposable cash, it’s definitely worth registering a copyright the official way. It’s cheap and surprisingly painless. Not to mention priceless, if you consider the peace of mind it affords.
A Guide to Canadian Copyright: http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/cipointernet-internetopic.nsf/eng/h_wr02281.html
Application Form for Registration of a Copyright in a Work: https://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/cipointernet-internetopic.nsf/vwapj/DA-CR-form1-eng.pdf/$file/DA-CR-form1-eng.pdf
Registering a copyright online – step-by-step instructions: https://www.wikihow.com/Copyright-in-Canada