Sometimes in the course of one simple conversation with a would-be writer, an awful lot of commonly asked questions come up. Take this exchange, for example:
“I’m going broke paying for copyrights. I keep filling out those forms and sending them to the Library of Congress, and then I add some stuff or make some changes and I have to do it all over again – more money!”
Now, before I proceed any further, mind you that I am not a lawyer nor am I giving legal advice here. If you don’t believe me or even if you do, join the Author’s Guild (I’m a member) and discuss legal issues with them for free – it’s part of their service to us starving writers. But for now, I shall continue …
Regarding multiple filings of copyrights … don’t do this. For one thing, there have been some major overhauls to the copyright system over the years. For example, the moment you write something, it is technically copyrighted. The whole Library of Congress thing is an extra, a way of securing your rights with less question and making your claim more defensible, but still, even without it, what you wrote is yours in the eyes of the law from the moment you wrote it.
Furthermore, it is usually your publisher who pays for and does this service, because in that way it is done once, since your work will continue to be edited up until the day it is printed. Why enrich the government by paying over and over again every time you make a change? Do it once and be done with it.
Note: this does NOT mean your publisher becomes the copyright holder. YOU are. You are the creator of the work; you hold the copyright.
Check your publishing contract. It will usually mention the issue of copyright. If it does not, bring up the subject during negotiations. Again, for advice on wording, ask the Guild; they’re great.
More to come …