As original works fixed in a tangible medium, whether that medium is physical or digital, literary works such as novels, plays, screenplays, poetry, and song lyrics are eligible for copyright protection. Writers should be aware of their rights and the details of copyright law so they can protect their work. For questions about copyright law as it pertains to writing, schedule a meeting with the Duncan Firm legal team.
Though you are automatically the copyright holder of a literary work as soon as you produce it, you must register your work with the US Copyright Office in order for your rights to be enforceable in court. This is as simple as submitting a copy of your work, paying a fee and obtaining a valid registration. Consult a lawyer if you have questions.
Writers are constantly producing new drafts of their work, so the question arises: do you need to register each draft individually? In most cases, you do not. Even if you change minor details, your copyright registration will still be valid if your literary work retains the same title, characters, general theme, and the bulk of the text. If your work has been substantially revised so that a reasonable neutral party may consider it a separate work (different title, story, text, etc.), then you should consider re-registering it to establish your ownership.
If you are submitting your work to publishers, agents, or contests, the assumption is that you are the copyright holder. Before you begin sending your work out, we highly recommend registering it with the Copyright Office to avoid potential legal complications.
Generally, if you intend to use portions of a literary work in your own copyrightable product, you need to obtain permission from the rights holder. As with other forms of art, an exception is made for the purposes of review, criticism, and instruction.
The quantity of the text used also matters. Are you using the literary work as a supplement to your own original story or analysis, or are you simply copying large portions of text? Copyright cases are nuanced and depend on the willingness of the rights holder to press charges. Rights holders will rarely pursue a case involving a single quote, but the more text used, the more likely you are to draw legal attention. The best course of action is always to secure the rights holder’s permission.
Being a professional writer necessitates a solid understanding of copyright law. For information and legal advice, contact the experienced team at Duncan Firm.