Self Publishing - Copyright & Piracy

Just by writing it, your book is covered under copyright protection. However, without filing your registration, you’ll find it very difficult to enforce.
I’m sure you’ve heard of the “poor man’s copyright” before. If not, it’s the process of printing and mailing yourself a complete copy of your finished manuscript so you can prove by postage date stamp, when it was created. This may prove when you created and finalized the work, but it does not give you the official registration of the library of congress, nor can it be easily used to show proof when sending “cease and desist” letters.
The burden of proof is 100% in your hands and to enforce it, you’ll have to take your matter to court without the ability to claim any attorney’s fees.
If you file your claim properly, and register your work in a timely manner, you are protected. Registering your copyright establishes a public record of your “rights of authorship.” There is no burden of proof on who owns the work, it is officially yours.
This In today’s digital age, you’ll need that official proof of copyright if you want to issue a “DCMA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) takedown notice,” (a written notification of claimed infringement) and remove pirated copies of your work.
You can easily file your Copyright online. It only cost $35. You can also pre-register your work if you feel it is necessary; however the costs are much higher for this. (This is only recommended if you are sharing your pre-published work with people and fear it being stolen.)
Once filed, your book is officially protected from copyright infringement. Please note: It will take between four and six months for the official form from the Library of Congress, but even with the delay in paperwork, your work is protected from the moment you hit submit.


Many new Indie Authors are afraid about epublishing because of Piracy.
While it is a legitimate fear, it’s one that you’ll have to get over pretty quickly. If your book is out in the public marketplace, and popular enough that people are going to want to buy it, someone will pirate it. It’s going to happen in print and in ebooks. Don’t let the fear of pirating stop you from taking your books digital.
I’m not trying to downplay the effect of piracy. It does affect independent authors directly. People who pirate our work do not know the effort we put into it. Nor the fact that it was our hard earned money spent to produce them. All they know is they see a book and find a way to get it for free. That free copy equates to a lost sale. As an indie, you feel that loss
However, not having that ebook out there will equate to many, many more lost sales. 
As I said above, Ebooks are where the money is at. Because of their low price, readers are more willing to buy ebooks and take a chance on a new author. That means more people are willing to buy your book.
There are ways to help combat piracy but not all are recommended.
Just like with the music industry, ebooks come with the option of adding DRM (digital Rights Management).   
DRM is a type of access control method employed to ensure that the copy you licensed is not transferred to another person or device.
When you purchase a print book, it’s yours to do with as you please. You can share it with others, read it as many times as you want, or even sell it to someone else. You own that physical copy. With ebooks, you don’t actually own anything. It’s a digital copy that you essentially license to use from whichever publishing vendor you purchased it from.
When you upload your book to Amazon, you are given the option to ad DRM or not. You’ll probably be tempted to apply the DRM. Don’t.
While the idea behind DRM is good, it helps to slow down digital pirates (let’s face it, they know how to crack DRM, you’re not stopping them, you’re just slowing them down for a few minutes), it also prevents paying customers from being able to transfer the book they purchased between their own reading devices. This can put readers off of purchasing your book, and that is something you do not want to do.
While you can’t prevent pirating, you can take some steps to protecting yourself from it. Firstly, make sure your book is Copyright protected.
With copyright protection in place, you can now easily go after any sites that may be pirating your work.
Utilize “Google Alerts.” ( to let you know any time that your book title comes up online. This will alert you to any buzz about your book as well as tell you when it appears on torrents or other places where people can download it for free.
If your book comes up on one of these sites, then you can send a DCMA Takedown Notice with your copyright information. It’s the equivalent of a “cease and desist” notice. The DMCA states that while an Internet Service Provider (ISP) is not liable for transmitting information that may infringe a copyright, the ISP must remove materials from users’ websites that appear to constitute copyright in­fringement after it receives proper notice.
A DCMA Takedown Notice must adhere to the following requirements:
• Be in writing.
• Be signed by the copyright owner or agent. An electronic signature is acceptable.
• It must identify the copyrighted work that you claim has been infringed.
• It must identify the type or method of infringing on your work;
• It must include you or a registered agent of the copyright holder’s contact info.
• State that you are complaining in “good faith;”
• State that, “under penalty of perjury, that the information contained in the notification is accurate;” and
• State that you have the right to proceed (because you are the copyright owner or the owner’s agent).
Once sent, your files should be removed from the infringing website within 24 hours.
Read more tips and tricks in my handy dandy little guide.

Available exclusively on Kindle!


Carol Ervin said…
This is a good reminder. Thanks!
Erin Jamison said…
This is really great advice. I've read those copyright rules a dozen times but it's nice to see it listed out so succinctly.
Katie Salidas said…
Thanks for stopping by and reading. I'm glad to see these post are helpful. I try to write at least 2 a week.
Meaghan said…
Thanks for the post! Perhaps I'm paranoid... no, I am totally paranoid, but I am wondering if anyone else is freaked out by beta readers. I don't know anyone personally who I want to ask to be an early reader, and I am anxious about handing my baby MS over to a complete internet stranger, even if they seem to have a reputable following online. Any advice on that? It would be much appreciated...
Nicki J Markus said…
Great advice for those self-publishing!
J. R. Tomlin said…
Great information. Far too many authors don't understand these issues.
Jennifer Snyder said…
Great post! Thank you for this!
Katie Salidas said…
Yay! Glad everyone is getting good information from this!

Meaghan - You can pre-resgister your work if you are really worried about your beta readers. The cost is around $130 I think to do that. Check with the Copyright website for exact figures, but that will protect your work before it is published.

As for how to choose a good Beta reader, I suggest trying to find people you already know a bit about rather than complete strangers. There should be some communication beforehand.

Good luck!
Wodke Hawkinson said…
thanks for this article. Just today, we were alerted to 2 sites that claim to offer a free download of our novel. On one site, the download doesn't work (whew) and the other says it's available soon. Gave me chills. I wrote both sites and told them our book is NOT free and to contact me immediately. Haven't heard from either of them yet. But it's disturbing. We didn't put all those hours and hours of work into our book to give it away. Like many authors, we simply can't afford to give away our book.