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Can You Protect A Book Title? Ask Anne

duplicate originalHi Anne,

I sat down and wrote my stories… used a silly name I thought would never be used by anyone… But to my great disappointment about a year after writing them, more than one… sure enough out came a book with my title name and character’s name… Thought it was trash and I would have to rewrite. My question is… is it saveable?

Lisa Russell in comments

Hi Lisa,

Neither you nor anyone else in the US can protect a book title (or an article title for that matter) with a copyright. The same thing is usually true for the names of characters as well. So if I wrote a book called The Secrets of the Universe with a character named Anne you could use the same title, and the same character provided her description and actions were different.

To prove the point I entered Secrets of the Universe as a book search in Amazon – I quit counting at around a dozen.

So the answer to your question is your book can be published by you or someone else, assuming your in the US, as is.

Be careful about the names of characters – in my example, Anne, is a common name – there were actually eight of us in High School.  For instance, it wouldn’t be a great idea to make your character Harry Potter – unless you are doing a satire of that series.

Keep always in mind that ideas can’t be copyrighted, just their expression.

Under some circumstances a book title can be trademarked – usually when the title creates opportunities for more than one source of income. But it’s not the same protection as a copyright. Unruly Guides has a pretty good description of the hows and whys of trademarking a book.

However, since you say you deliberately chose a silly name for your book, I wonder if you might want to choose something else, unless it truly does signal your book’s contents. The title is a major part of marketing a book so should be carefully considered.

I’ve just launched Get Your Book Written With Vision & Spirit – a 21 lesson video class. As of today, Oct. 27, 2013, you can still benefit from early registration.

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Image: Attribution Some rights reserved by woodleywonderworks

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