Understanding A Book’s Copyright Page: What Does It Tell Specifically
Cast your mind back, way back to those archaic pre-internet times — long before sharing and liking were everyday actions synonymous with the online world; when tweeting was just something birds did and when copyright protection, although still a tricky business, was far less open to abuse than it is these days.
Copyright Page Demystified
History dictates that the enforcement of copyright protection has never been straightforward, but the very existence of the World Wide Web and the phenomenal explosion of the many social media networks attached to it, has altered the way we live both creating then fuelling our compulsions to instantaneously download, distribute, or copy and share all manner of things online; often with blurred vision when it comes to any legalities.
Don’t get me wrong in some ways it can be a great complement for artists if audiences like their work enough to want to copy and share (with their friends and followers) material such as poetry, song lyrics or even lustful lines from the latest raunchy novels hitting the bookshelves; but the bottom line is, that nowadays from the moment an author has created a piece of written work, copyright protection is in existence from then on.
And unless the work’s creator has given permission for others to copy and share it, scan it, add to it etc. the only thing that others should be doing with it (if it’s a book or article, for example) is reading it.
We’re going to take a detailed journey through each section of a book’s copyright page, looking thoroughly at what each part means.
Essentially we’re going to learn: how to decode a book’s copyright page. But right now, I think it’s probably useful to start with a reminder for anyone who’s forgotten, what copyright protection actually is.
What is Copyright Protection?
Copyright protection exists by law to protect the rights of authors of original work. The protection commences from the moment the work is created and fixed in a tangible form.
What is a Copyright Page?
So what is a Copyright page and what does it really contain? The copyright page commonly appears at the start of the book after the title page.
The information one copyright page carries can differ greatly to another depending on the subject matter and the type of book, but the copyright page usually contains the following things:
1) Information about the copyright owner
Information about the copyright owner could look like this:
Copyright © 2014 by Salil Jha
All rights reserved.
This means that the Copyright Owner (me, in this example) has sole ownership of the rights in terms of altering it, displaying it, and reproducing it.
It’s worth noting that nowadays there is no formal requirement to mark your copyrighted work with a © or with the word copyright the copyright protection still exists without it.
Some copyright notices include a lot more detail than the phrase All rights reserved. Just so readers are really clear on what they can and can’t do with a publication, it’s common for books to state things like:
This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise be lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published, etc. etc.
2) A Thank You notice
A thank you note could look like this:
Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission.
A thank you notice is frequently displayed on a copyright page, itâ€™s a polite way of reminding users that they should comply with copyright laws when using the product.
3) ISBN Numbers
ISBN 13: 9780692265291
ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. Each 13 digit ISBN number uniquely identifies the book edition and therefore holds great importance to libraries, booksellers, marketing companies, distributors and anyone wanting a book to become commercially available.
Prior to January 2007, ISBN numbers were 10 digits long, but around that time the ISBN system was reviewed and they are now 13 digits long.
Worldwide, there are actually over 150 agencies which allocate ISBN numbers, but it really doesn’t matter where on the planet the ISBN number has been assigned, the beauty is, they’re an internationally recognizable way of identifying books and book-related products.
Some books contain more than one ISBN number as in the case of the above example from Naked Soul: Erotic Love Poems.
Export editions require a separate ISBN number, as do different formats such as hardback, Kindle and paperback. Several ISBN’s can be purchased in one block from www.bowker.com
4) Library of Congress Control Number
Library of Congress Control Number: 201491378
Although the name makes it sound pretty official, the Library of Congress Control Number is just a unique bibliographic record of a forthcoming publication.
These assigned records help inform the library community of new publications through weekly distribution lists. Library of Congress Control numbers are free and can be obtained by sending a copy of the book to the relevant cataloging department of the Library of Congress in advance of a book’s publication dates, thus facilitating acquisitions and gaining entry to one of the biggest book collections in the USA.
5) Edition Information
First Edition: December 2014
Wording like this is pretty standard on a book’s copyright page and it’s self-explanatory, informing us what edition it is and when it was first published.
6) Name and location of the publisher
Large publishing houses often have a lot of info in this section. This could include several different global addresses of the publishing company, the companyâ€™s website address and its registration number, but in the case of my self-published collection, these are the pretty succinct details:
Naked Soul Press
Other things which a title page may include:
Disclaimers vary from book to book depending on the book type. A fiction novel’s disclaimer may read:
“This is a work of fiction, names and characters are the product of the author’s imagination and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, is purely coincidental.”
Whereas a health or complementary therapy type book may state: This book is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. Readers should seek medical advice in matters relating to his / her health.
8) Credits for contributors
Individuals or companies who’ve contributed to the book’s content may be listed. Such as photographers, editors or designers.
e.g. Cover illustration copyright © 2014 by Salil S. Jha.
Poetry of Salil S. Jha, used by kind permission of Naked Soul Press.
9) Environmental information about products used in the book’s making
More and more over the years, I’ve seen environmental statements on the title page of books made by publishers who support organizations such as the Forest Stewardship Council ®, they often carry the organization’s trademark and have their books printed on the eco-friendly paper of that particular organization.
10) Typesetter details and printing company information
Details of the typesetting company as well as the font types and size used in the book are pretty common, as is providing details of the printing company used by the publisher.
e.g Typset by S Jha Graphics, Boston MA and
Printed and bound by S Jha Compositions, Boston MA
11) Translation information
e.g. This translation first published in 2013.
Translation Copyright © Salil Jha
I’m hoping that I’ve provided some interesting and useful information on this subject for you guys. If you’ve found at least some of my copyright page decoding useful, feel free to drop me a line and let me know.
I’m going to finish up by mentioning that copyright (although it lasts a long time) does not last forever. It eventually expires, and when this happens, the once protected work ends up in the public domain.
Public Domain Explained
If a work is referred to as being in the public domain, it means it’s now available for use without asking the copyright owners permission. William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens are just two of the many authors whose works are now in the public domain due to copyright expiration.
Any works published prior to 1923 will now be in the public domain. Works published after 1923 but before 1978 are protected 95 years from the date of publication.
For me, this is where things start to get pretty confusing because if the work was created without a copyright notice between 1923 and 1977, it has no copyright protection and has ended up in the public domain as the creator failed to comply with the required formalities at that time.
(Copyright notices are no longer a requirement for authors to be protected but it’s still useful to use them).
If work was created but not published before 1978, the copyright lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years.
And as I understand it, works published after 1977, the copyright also lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years.
Are you with me so far? Congratulations if you are because even Iâ€™m finding this difficult to get my head around!
Finally, if a work’s creator didn’t properly renew the copyright on work published between 1923 – 1963, then the work will be in the public domain.
You might want to search the records of the US Copyright Office’s website for more info.
Try out the Copy Right or Copy Wrong quick quiz
We’re going to round things up with a quick quiz, just to see if you’ve been paying attention. There are a few statements listed below, read through them and decide whether the statement is right or wrong, it’s that simple:
- If a publisher decides to sell books without placing them in bookshops or libraries, an ISBN is required. Is this right or wrong?
- For your work to be copyright protected, a copyright notice should be included on your copyright page. Is this right or wrong?
- Work published before 1923 remains copyrighted if author renewed the copyright properly. Is this right or wrong?
- A new ISBN number must be allocated for different formats of the book e.g Hardback, paperback and Kindle. Is this right or wrong?
- Wrong – No ISBN number is required in this case
- Wrong – This was true once upon a time but itâ€™s not a requirement these days
- Wrong – The work is now in the public domain as copyright has expired
- Right – This is correct, new ISBNâ€™s are required for the different formats
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What do you think about the Copyright page article? I am sure there are things that I have missed. Please leave your thoughts in the comment section below.