What should you put on your book’s Copyright Page?
Why have a copyright page?
Open any printed book and, a few pages in, you’ll find the copyright page.
The first thing you’ll notice about it is that it’s all in tiny print. The second thing is, if you actually read it, it’s got a lot more than copyright information on it.
So, what’s it for, and why do you need one?
Think of the copyright page as your book’s metadata page. It contains information, some of it essential, some just helpful or useful, about your book.
The reason it’s in small print is that the reader isn’t expected to read it, and most won’t want to. It presents the sort of information some readers might want to know (such as what year the book was published, and how to contact the publisher), as well as statements the publisher makes for legal reasons, such as to assert their right to publish the book, and to protect them in certain legal situations.
In this article, we’ll cover what’s generally found on copyright pages, which you might want to include in your own self-published work, as well as why they’re there.
Copyright pages usually begin with a simple assertion of who is publishing the book:
Published by TinyBee Books
This lets a reader know who they should contact if, for instance, they want to obtain permission to use an extract from the book. Often, publishers will include their business address and/or website address.
If this is not the book’s first publication, you might include details of when and by whom it was previously published:
Previously published by TinyBug Books, 2000
If, however, this is a first edition, you might want to state this, just to be clear, and to help any future collectors of your work:
In many countries, copyright is automatic, so there’s no need to explicitly assert it on a copyright page.
However, because it’s common practise for publishers to include a copyright notice, it’s probably best to do so, just to leave no doubt. Nobody can then say, “Well, I looked for a copyright notice and there wasn’t one, so I thought it must be public domain!”
All you need is a line of the form:
Copyright © 2019 Author name
If your book contains material from different copyright holders, such as a preface, introduction or interior illustrations, give them a line each, specifying what is copyrighted and by whom:
Introduction copyright © 2019 Name
Translation copyright © 2019 Translator
Also, if you’ve included material such as quotes from other copyrighted works, you might want to note their copyright, too, and perhaps thank them for giving you permission to include the quote:
Quote from A Book by An Author is copyright © 2000 An Author
Printed books often contain a notice on the copyright page saying where a catalog record can be obtained, or they might print the record itself (usually the British Library’s CIP record for a UK published book, or The Library of Congress’s CIP in the US), but this is not essential, and is mostly provided for the use of libraries.
If your book has an ISBN (and most do, though Kindle books don’t require one), you might want to state it on the copyright page, for the simple reason that it makes sense to have a book’s ISBN somewhere, and where better than your book’s “metadata” page?
Statement of rights
“Rights”, here, refers to copyright. As copyright can be divided into different rights, relating to the different ways a work might be reproduced (hardback rights, paperback rights, serial rights, audiobook rights, movie adaptation rights, and so on), it’s worth asserting that these rights are also held by the copyright holder.
At its simplest, this means a notice such as:
All rights reserved.
Many publishers flesh this out to make it entirely clear what this means, with something like:
All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the written permission of the publisher.
Note that “fair use” — the legal right of a third party to reproduce brief quotes from your work, for instance in a book review — is still protected by law, whatever you say in a rights statement like this. Some publishers even make this clear:
All rights reserved. Except for brief quotations in critical articles or reviews, no part of this work may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the written permission of the publisher.
Another right you may see asserted, particularly in books published in the UK, is the moral right of attribution. Open a UK-published book and you will see something like this:
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
Anne Author asserts her moral right to be identified as the author of this work.
Joe Writer asserts his moral right to be identified as the author of this work in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Acts 1988.
What, then, is this about?
There are, actually, four “moral rights” made available by the 1988 Act. (See Copyright uncovered: What should I know about moral rights? at DACS.org.uk for more about these.) The one we’re dealing with here is the “Right of Attribution”, which means the right to have a work identified as being by you.
This may seem an odd right to assert, but the first thing to note is that this right has to be asserted in order for it to apply. Unlike copyright, it’s not automatic. So, it’s worth including on the copyright page.
But why bother with this moral right at all? If the publisher has put your name on the cover, nobody’s going to doubt it’s by you, are they? It does, at this point, seem like an abstruse legal point, but it might prove useful if, for instance, somebody pirates or illegally copies your work, or part of it, and passes it off as their own. In such a case, obviously, your copyright is infringed, but having your moral right infringed can provide another avenue of legal recourse.
Warnings and Disclaimers
Sometimes, particularly in legal matters, it helps to point out the obvious, just so nobody can say it wasn’t obvious to them.
If you’ve written a novel full of made-up characters with made-up names, there’s still a chance one of your readers might have the same name, or might even think they recognise something of their own life in the story you’ve told. Usually, reader identification is a plus, but if a reader is feeling litigious, or insulted by what you’ve written, it might be a good idea to preempt any legal moves on their part with a notice pointing out what (to you) is dead obvious:
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organisations, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or, if real, are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, organisations, events or localities is entirely coincidental.
This won’t rule out the possibility that someone might sue you for using their name, but it will certainly act as a first line of defence.
Non-fiction books will need more careful consideration. It is certainly worth asserting the limits of any liability you are willing to assume in providing the advice, hints, or examples in your book to any reader who might act on them and in some way harm themselves or others.
For instance, if you write a book about your particular diet or system of exercise, it’s certainly worth including a sentence such as:
Always check with your physician before beginning this or any other exercise regimen.
Similarly, for other types of advice.
(And, just to be clear, this article on what to include in your copyright page does not constitute legal advice. I am not a lawyer!)
This is not essential, but readers may like to know the name of your cover artist or designer, and it’s certainly good form to acknowledge and respect a fellow creator.
So, do mention them, assert their copyright, and maybe even provide their web address:
Cover art by L Da Vinci
Design by Jan Designer