March 21, 2021– I’m answering your questions this month about publishing, being an author, and everything in between. I hope that you’re enjoying our theme this month, and if you’d like to send in your questions, drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s dig in to today’s question:
Q: “I’m new to self-publishing. I’m wondering if I need to copyright the title to my book?”
A: Excellent question. The answer is NO. Why? Book titles are among a list of things that can’t be copyrighted because titles aren’t considered intellectual property. Here are the other items on the list that cannot be copyrighted:
- Names of businesses, organizations, or groups (including the names of performing groups)
- Names of products or services
- Pseudonyms of individuals (including pen or stage names)
- Titles of works (movies, songs, books, plays, etc.)
- Catchwords, catchphrases, mottoes, slogans, or short advertising expressions
- Listings of ingredients, as in recipes, labels, or formulas. When a recipe or formula is accompanied by an explanation or directions, the text directions may be copyrightable, but the recipe or formula itself remains uncopyrightable.
In Canada, we have the Copyright Act. Taken from the government of Canada website-Copyright applies to all original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works provided the conditions set out in the Copyright Act have been met. Each of these general categories covers a wide range of creations, including:
- literary works such as books, pamphlets, computer programs and other works consisting of text
- dramatic works such as motion picture films, plays, screenplays and scripts
- musical works such as compositions with or without words
- artistic works such as paintings, drawings, maps, photographs, sculptures and plans
For more info click here: A guide to copyright – Canadian Intellectual Property Office
That said, trademarking is a different story. Even if you can’t copyright a book title, or the other items listed above, you may be able to register the title as a trademark. For example, “Chicken Soup for the Soul” is a registered trademark, as is the “Dummies” series of books. Trademarks protect the brand of the company and from other businesses potentially infringing on it. Fun fact: Pandamonium Publishing House is a registered trademark.
I hope this helps! If you’re a Canadian author, as soon as you put pen to paper, the copyright act protects your work. Also, YOU the AUTHOR are the owner of the copyright to your work. A publisher that says they own the copyright to your manuscript, is grossly misinformed and unaware of the law. Copyrights are designed to protect the artist from unregistered use of their work. As for other countries, please consult your government website for your specific country’s copyright information.