Kathryn Goldman

Why and How to Copyright Your Self-Published Book

Please welcome back special guest poster Kathryn Goldman. If you haven’t already grabbed a copy of her free Digital Artists Rip-Off Protection Report, make sure you don’t miss out on the chance to get this extremely helpful resource!


Why and How to Copyright Your Self-Published Book

By Kathryn Goldman

The mantra chanted by people like me (copyright lawyers) in favor of registering the copyright in your work with the United States Copyright Office is that if you have registered your work in a timely manner and somebody infringes it, you can sue them and possibly recover your attorneys’ fees and statutory damages (up to $150,000 per infringement).

Attorneys fees and statutory damages can be a powerful big stick to use against evil deed doers, or infringers. The threat of a substantial monetary award can be useful to quickly resolve disputes.

It may be that the notion of initiating and financing a federal lawsuit for copyright infringement is alien to you. The question becomes—if you’re not going to litigate—just how useful is a copyright registration on your work?

The answer is that it’s hard to know right now what action you might want to take in the future if your work is infringed. But for $35, it makes sense to create basic protections for your work after you’ve spent countless hours writing and editing and real money on editors, cover art and book design. Throw down the extra $35 and file for that registration. One day, you just might need it.

Electronic Copyright Application Process

Today we’re going to go step-by-step through the online application process for registration of a Literary Work by a single US author. (My apologies to Marcy’s non-US readers for lack of relevance.) To illustrate the process, I’m going to show you actual screenshots of the application for registration of my “Literary Work” Digital Artists Rip-Off Protection Report which I wrote in October 2014 and revised in November 2014.

Log in to eCO

In order to file an application online with the Copyright Office, you need to create an account which means a username and password. I know, it’s just another ID/password combination to forget . . . I mean remember.

It is possible to register your work old-school style by mailing in a paper application. That costs $85. The savings for electronic filing is significant.

How to Register Using a Single Form (Single Author and Single Work)

After you’ve created your account and signed in, select “Register a New Claim” using the menu on the left under the section Copyright Registration.


Preliminary Questions

The first screen has three preliminary questions that focus on the author or creator. For our example, we’re completing an application for just the text of a work (my report) for which I am the author and owner with material created only by me.

These questions should all be answered “Yes.” Then “Continue.”


Type of Work

The next screen determines the type of work that is being registered. Literary Works include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, textbooks, reference works, directories, catalogs, advertising copy and other written works.

Sometimes a work has two or more types of authorship, like a book that is mostly text but has some photographs. In that case, choose “Literary Work” because the work is made up of mostly literary material.

Remember, this is not an example of filing an application for a work that is created by two different authors. This is a single author application.

For our example, select literary work in the drop-down box and click “Continue.”


Title of the Work

Enter the title of the work and whether it has appeared in a collection, like a volume of short stories, for example. Then click “Continue.”



A published work is one that is offered for sale or distribution to the public. Online content is considered to be published if the copyright owner authorizes the end user to retain copies of the content or further distribute the content.

Once you’ve uploaded your ebook to Amazon, or anywhere for that matter, for sale or free download, it is considered published by the Copyright Office.

An application for registration is considered timely if it is completed within three months of publication or before infringement.

If you have an ISBN, this is where that information belongs:



This is the section in which you identify yourself as the author of the work.


Progress Checklist

As you move through the form, there is a checklist that updates as you go showing you how much of the application you’ve completed and how much there is left to go.


Excluded Material

This is the section of the application referred to as “Limitation of Claim” in the progress checklist in which the material not created by the author is excluded.

In this case, I have excluded the photograph and the cover art because I did not take the picture or create the cover. My portrait was taken by Chris Stadler.

If you select excluded material, you must also select the included material. In this case, I am only seeking copyright on the text that I wrote.


Rights & Permissions Contact Information

If I complete this form for one of my clients, this is where I identify myself as the contact person. You can identify yourself in this section.


NOTE: This information is publicly available and you want to be careful about what you include. I use my office address, email and phone number.


The correspondent is the person whom the Copyright Office will contact if there is a question about the application. This is a service I handle on behalf of my clients but you can identify yourself in this section.


Special Handling

Because a registration is needed in order to bring a lawsuit for infringement in the United States, you may have to request special handling to expedite the filing. Special handling is significantly more expensive than a regular filing by hundreds of dollars.

If you did not file within three months of publication or before infringement, you will not be entitled to statutory damages and attorneys fees but you will be entitled to injunctive relief. Injunctive relief means that you can ask a court to issue an order that the infringer stop the infringing action.

In an ideal world no special handling is needed because you have added copyright registration to your work flow and when you need it, it has been done.

I recommend that you make applying for copyright registration a regular habit when you finish each book. That way, if you decide you must file a lawsuit, you’ll be ready and you won’t be scrambling.


Is the section of the application in which you swear that it is your work or that you are the authorized agent of the creator.


Review the Application

If the application is correct, add it to your cart and check-out for $35. If there are any mistakes, now is the chance to fix them.

Deposit Copy

After the U.S Treasury processes payment, the Copyright Office will ask for the deposit copy of the work which you should have ready on your hard drive. A deposit copy is a copy of the work for which your are seeking registration to be kept by the Library of Congress.

Before clicking upload deposit, make sure your pop-up blocker has been disabled.

Browse for and select your file. In this case mine is a PDF, type in a short title and submit.


Application Confirmation eMail

When your deposit copy is received, you’ll receive an email from the Copyright Office confirming a completed application. From that point, it will take about eight months to receive the Registration. But the effective date of the Registration is retroactive to the date of the application. The timeliness of the application is what is important.

The application can become more complex if there is cover art, an introduction or other supplementary materials in the work that you did not create and you want protection for those elements of the work.

The Copyright Office has tried to design the online application so it can be completed by individuals without the help of an attorney.

But if you have questions, let me know in the comments.

Kathryn Goldman lawyerKathryn Goldman is a lawyer who protects writers, artists, and businesses from having their work and art ripped off. Since she’s a lawyer, she has to mention that she’s not *your* lawyer (so this article isn’t technically legal advice), but you’re still invited to download her Digital Artists Rip-Off Protection Report.

Follow Kathryn on Twitter @KathrynGoldman

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6 Key Terms in Amazon’s KDP Contract — A Digest for Busy Writers

Amazon KDP ContractI’m pleased to bring you all a special guest post today. I recently connected with Kathryn Goldman, a lawyer and writer, and after seeing some of the other articles she’d written, I knew I wanted to invite her here to “speak” to all of you about some very important issues. She’ll be back next month for an encore, but this month she’s going to walk us through what our rights and responsibilities are when we sell our books on Amazon. Take it away, Kathryn!


6 Key Terms in Amazon’s KDP Contract — A Digest for Busy Writers

By Kathryn Goldman

You’ve finished writing your novel. You did it with stolen hours — early mornings, late nights, and while the laundry was on spin cycle. You’ve stolen more hours for rewriting, revising, and polishing until it shines.

You’ve invested in professional cover art and professional editing. It’s been a long and not inexpensive journey because you’ve taken the time to do it right.

From the beginning you’ve focused on your craft, incorporating the advice of the leaders in your field.

You are ready to upload your manuscript and click publish.

Now is no time to skimp on doing things the right way. That means understanding the rules.

Whatever platform you use for self-publishing — Kindle, Kobo, Smashwords — that service becomes your business partner and you need to know what you can expect from them and what they expect from you.

But reading a 20+ page contract of legalese may not fit into your busy schedule and my guess is that you’re going to skip it.

I get it, I do. The legal stuff is just not that important to you. Asking a lawyer to explain the Amazon KDP contract to you is so far down your list, it’s not even on your list.

But it’s important to me that you understand the key points of the deal you’re about to enter. I want you to understand the business you’re in. That way you’re less likely to need a lawyer in the future.

So, to help cut down the chances that you will ignore Amazon’s KDP contract completely, I have summarized six of the key terms for you here.

This is not a substitute for reading the whole contract. *wags finger*

Your Rights in the KDP Program

You have three basic rights when using KDP:

  1. the right to use the program;
  2. the right to get paid; and
  3. the right to protect your copyrights.


The most interesting thing about the right to use the program is that the program is undefined and Amazon is constantly changing it.

Algorithms determine rankings. The user interface helps a reader find and buy your book. The genre categories impact your meta data and therefore your sales. These all work together and a slight change in one may have a ripple effect on your results.

Your right to use KDP is limited to the right to use it in the form Amazon presents it at any given time.

Getting Paid

Payment is based on the royalty option you select, either the 35% option or the 70% option. Taxes and delivery costs are deducted from the 70% option.

You have the right to change the royalty option you selected.

You have the right to receive a royalty report every 60 days.

Amazon has agreed to collect and pay all sales taxes on your behalf for the sales of your work.

Protected Copyrights

Control over copyright is what makes Amazon different from traditional publishers.

Amazon is not a publisher. You are the publisher. Amazon is offering you the platform on which to publish your work – it is a digital content distribution program.

Generally, publishers require an author to give a written assignment of the copyright in her work which then allows the publisher to control how, when, where and in what form the work will be presented.

Amazon does not ask you to give up any control of your copyright.

Your Promises to Amazon

Your Account

You promise that you are over 18 years old, that the information in your account is accurate and up to date, that you are not using a false identity, that you are responsible for everything that happens in your account even if you did not authorize it and if Amazon terminates your account, you may not open a new one.

Safe Uploads   

You promise that there will be no viruses in any of the digital files that you upload.


The metadata describing your book must be accurate. Metadata means things like the title of the book, the title of the series if the book is in a series, search keywords, genre selection, the publisher and publication date.

Amazon does not allow you to use another author’s name in your metadata, or words like “best-seller” or “free.”


You swear up, down and sideways that you own all the rights to the content that you have uploaded to the program. (This is where Amazon helps protect against the work of authors from being ripped-off.)

If clearances or licenses are needed for any of your work, you promise that you have obtained them at your expense.

You promise that you are not defaming anyone in your story and that if you owe anyone any money in connection with the work, you will pay it.

A Broken Promise   

If Amazon gets sued because you have broken any of these promises, you agree to indemnify their losses. That means you have to reimburse Amazon for any money it has to pay because you broke your promises. That includes attorney’s fees.

Do You Really Control Pricing?

Amazon lets you set the list price of your book within the maximums and minimums for the different royalty options

Despite letting you set the list price, Amazon clearly states that it has complete discretion in setting the retail price of your book. So, you do not control the price of your book. Amazon does. And Amazon is not answerable to you for when, whether or why they might change the price your book is sold for.

What If There is a Dispute?

If you think Amazon hasn’t paid you properly (and you can’t work it out with customer service), you have only 6 months to bring a claim against them.

You can bring your claim in your home state, if the amount is small enough for your local small claims court. If the amount owed is larger than the jurisdictional limit on the small claims court in your home state, then you may not bring a lawsuit.

Instead, you must start an arbitration proceeding in the State of Washington.

Amazon Can Change the Deal

Amazon can change the deal and the program whenever they want – going forward. They tell you that right up front.

But they cannot change what they owe you in royalties for sales made in the past.

Do You Have Any Liability?

Your liability is unlimited. If you do something that causes a loss for Amazon, you may be required to pay them back for it.

Amazon’s liability to you is limited to the amount they owed you in royalties in the past 12 months. If something happens like your book is not available for purchase during your largest marketing campaign ever and you’ve lost thousands of sales because your book can’t be found on Amazon, there is nothing you can do about it.

Amazon is not responsible for lost sales. They want the program to work as well as it possibly can, but if for some reason it’s not working, they are not liable to you.

Those are the key points in Amazon KDP contract in a nutshell. The full contract is over 20 pages (single-spaced) plus attachments, so I can understand why you may not have read through it before clicking PUBLISH.

But really, don’t you feel better knowing some of what is is there?

If you have any questions about any other provision in the KDP contract, ask in the comments and I’ll see if I can find the answer.

Kathryn Goldman lawyerKathryn Goldman is a lawyer who protects writers, artists, and businesses from having their work and art ripped off. Since she’s a lawyer, she has to mention that she’s not *your* lawyer (so this article isn’t technically legal advice), but you’re still invited to download her Digital Artists Rip-Off Protection Report.

Follow Kathryn on Twitter @KathrynGoldman

Marcy here again: I’d love to have you sign up to receive my posts by email. All you need to do is enter your email address below and hit the “Follow” botton.

Enter your email address to follow this blog: