Monday, June 15, 2015

How Do I Register Revised Version of Previously Published Book?

early print-on-demand system
Dear Rich: Some years ago, I wrote a novel. I briefly offered it through a print-on-demand service, but only a very few copies were actually printed before I thought better of it and all of those copies went to me or close friends. The work was not registered with the Copyright Office at that time. Since withdrawing the book from the P-O-D service, I've made various revisions to the text, fixing some errors, refining dialogue, and so forth. I am now interested in registering the work, but because of the short-lived print edition, I'm not sure how I need to approach it. Am I obligated to submit the version published, noting the date, and then file a separate continuation with the revision? Is there a way to simply submit the current version and note that a previous, unregistered edition was published? (The current version is still close enough to the previous one to be immediately identifiable as a different draft of the same thing.) Yes, you can register the most current version but you might be better served by registering the earlier P.O.D. version assuming there are no major changes -- new characters, new plot line -- in the revision. Here's the skinny:
Do you need to register at all? Start with the principle that both versions are protected under copyright law and registration is not required to obtain rights. Registration is encouraged because it provides some benefits most of which are important if you must sue someone. Because few people have seen the P.O.D. version and nobody has yet to see your new version, you may not need to be concerned with infringement ... that is, until you distribute your revised version. 
If you do register ... The Copyright Office views your revised work as a derivative of the P.O.D. work and therefore your registration is intended to provide protection for your modifications. When you complete the limitations section of your application, you would fill it out as shown below:
Assuming the P.O.D. version is close to the revision, we would recommend registering the P.O.D. now. Later, when you are ready to publish the revised version, register that one as well, including the information shown above, as well as previous registration number and year of registration. Keep in mind that you can use your P.O.D. registration to stop someone who rips off your revised version (even if the revised version is not registered) because only the copyright owner (you) would have the right to make derivatives.
By the way dept. You would not file a "continuation." We think you're applying the patent definition of that term.  Under copyright law a continuation sheet is used to provide additional information that doesn't fit within the original paper application.