Intellectual Property Law

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What is a Book Copyright?

A book copyright gives the creator or author of an original work the exclusive right to print, copy, sell, distribute, license, transfer to another medium, translate, record, perform or otherwise use or not use and give away to another by will. The original work once created, and in a tangible form, automatically has copyright protection. 

How can an author copyright a book?

Copyright is automatic. When an author of a completed original work has a tangible product it automatically has copyright protection. It will provide some protection in the event of infringement. Registering the completed original work with the federal copyright office provides additional protection. Registration of a work is fairly easy. It can either be done online or offline. Registering online can be done by going to Using either method to register will require a copy of the work to be registered.

If two individuals created a book together but only one of them actually wrote it, who owns the copyright?

If one individual wrote the words and the other individual coordinated and designed the book, then both contributed to the making of the completed work and in turn are joint authors. So in this case both would have joint ownership of the book and would have equal shares of any monies made from the book. Essentially they are co-owners of the copyright. 

However, if there was a contract in place stating that the individual who wrote the words has full ownership, then the copyright would be theirs. If no contract was in place but money was paid to the coordinator/designer via invoices then the individual may have a hard time proving their rights to the ownership of the completed work.

Does a copyright expire?

Book copyrights do expire. Once a copyright expires it falls into the public domain. Works created in 1978 to date have extended copyright protection. Specified terms are defined in 17 U.S.C. § 302. With the enactment of the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, copyright protection is granted for the length of the author’s life plus 70 years. Work for hire works have a different term. The copyright on works for hire will continue based on creation or publication. The shorter term of either 120 years after creation or 95 years after publication will be in effect. 

Having the right information and understanding of book copyrights can help when questions arise. Experts can help answer questions on book copyright expirations or how to register for a book copyright. Get the answers fast and affordably by asking an Expert online.

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