The best ways to protect your book through IP

25. April 2022

By Mariana Volpi. Lawyer.

Writing and finishing a book is an incredibly hard task, it takes both determination and a lot of creativity. So, it’s a good idea to ensure your creative asset is well protected at the moment of publishing it. Here are some of the things you should consider when protecting your literary creation.

How to Protect a Books content

Books, like many other creative endeavors, are protected by copyright. Copyright is the legal right that an author has over its creation. Copyright does not protect ideas, but the expression of those ideas in the form of books, music, paintings, sculpture, films, computer programs, databases, advertisements, maps, or technical drawings.

In line with the Berne Convention, in most countries, copyright protection is obtained automatically, without the need for further registration. However, there will normally be a system in place to allow for the voluntary registration of works.

Registering the copyright will help if there is ever a dispute about the authorship or ownership of your book. It might also facilitate financial transactions, sales, and the assignment and/or transfer of rights. Registering your copyright is recommended because it allows better control and protection over your work, and simplifies the production of proof and evidence, in the event of an infringement of your author’s rights (an Intellectual Property Attorney can help you with copyright prosecution). If someone infringes your unregistered copyright, a long legal battle might be needed to prove that you own the rights. However, if it’s registered, a cease-and-desist letter might do the trick instead.

Registration is also used, for example, in the cases where the art is not registered in the name of the creator but of the agency that represents them. Publishing contracts often state who owns the copyright.

Copyright entitles you to economic and moral rights in your work. Economic rights allow you as a right owner to obtain a financial benefit from the use of your work by others. As the economic right owner, you could authorize or forbid that your book is adapted to a screenplay, translated into other languages, recorded to podcasts or audiobooks, or publicly performed (in plays, for example). Economic rights are transferrable and can be sold. Moral rights, on the other hand, are personal and inalienable. They protect the non-economic interests of the author, for example, opposing changes to the work that could harm the author’s reputation. The most important moral rights are (a) recognition of the authorship and integrity of works and (b) the right to share this work. Some of these rights exist in perpetuity (for example, the right that the author of a book to be acknowledged for it lasts forever).

Economic rights on the work don’t last forever. In most countries, and according to the Berne Convention, economic rights are operative until at least 50 years after the creator’s death. This time limit can vary from country to country. After that, the creation will enter the public domain, which means that it will no longer have an economic right owner and can be used or exploited without authorization from the right owner and for free.

A useful tool for authors to bear in mind are Collective Management Organizations (CMOs). Since it might be difficult for the right owner to monitor every use of their work, and it would be hard for users to seek specific authorization for every work they want to use, CMOs take care of monitoring uses of works on behalf of creators, negotiate licenses, and collect remuneration.

How to Protect your a Books cover

The cover of the book is often a discovery point for the reader to pick up a book in a bookshop over another book. It is one of the factors that have a direct influence on sales. To catch the reader’s attention, the cover will most likely have images, illustrations, or graphics. When designing the cover, remember that those items might be someone else’s assets protected by copyright. If you are working with a publisher agency, they will probably take care of this for you. However, if you are publishing independently, be sure to evaluate if you might be infringing someone else’s copyright.

You should always seek authorization from the right owner or use creations in the public domain. Just because a picture can be found on the internet does not mean it is public domain, so be sure to analyze it thoroughly.

If you design the cover yourself or hire someone to do it, then you will own the copyright for creation made in the course of the employment. However, it is convenient to state this clearly in the contract.

How to Protect your a Book’s title

The title of the book is not always protected by copyright. There are many books with the same title. However, to avoid this, in some cases, you might be able to register the title as a trademark. The benefit of a trademark application is that it gives you the exclusive right to use your sign in connection to the goods and services you provide, and the right to initiate Court Actions against infringers.

Typically, book titles cannot be registered as trademarks. Trademarks are distinctive signs, designs, or expressions that identify your brand and differentiate it from others. The primary purpose of trademarks is to prevent consumer confusion. A book title would not identify the underlying source of the goods or service and hence, single creative works are not eligible for trademark approval.

However, if you plan to write a book series, then you might be able to register the title as a trademark. You will need to prove that you are going to write a series and that the trademark will be used to identify the series (not just the separate book titles within the series).

The registration of titles as trademarks must be treated according to the general principles of trademark law. The title must be distinctive to be registered as a wordmark. If what is distinctive is the figurative element, a graphic design of a self-descriptive title might be registered as a figurative mark. The logo will be protected to use for merchandising, or to license to others.

For example, the titles of all the Harry Potter books are registered as EU trademarks, and “For Dummies” is a registered trademark of Wiley Publishing, Inc.

Before registering a trademark application for your book title, it is suggested you hire a professional attorney to conduct a trademark search, in order to ensure the title is not already being used by someone else

Conclusion about the best ways to protect your book through IP

In short, Copyright will protect your literary creation (the content of your book) from the moment that you write it, but we suggest you register it, nonetheless. For the content and especially the cover of your book, you should beware of using someone else’s protected copyright as you might fall into infringement.

Finally, if you are writing a book series, you might consider registering the title as a trademark to obtain all the benefits provided by trademarks…but not without conducting a search, first!

Should you need help with any of the above, do not hesitate to contact us!


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