Copyright Question



At what point in the writing process can you officially register the copyright for your work? For example, if I’m writing a novel, and I want to release it on Wattpad as I write it, can I legally register the copyright for said novel when I begin writing it, or do I have to wait until I’ve completely finished writing the novel to register the copyright? Is the copyright not valid unless the work in question is complete?

I ask because I feel nervous about releasing my work online, unprotected, but at the same time I think it would be really motivating to let other people read my work as I write it (instead of writing it all first and then releasing it on Wattpad). Any help, advice, or suggestions are appreciated.

I live in Canada, if that makes a difference.


The FAQ is here

And in case if anyone steals it you can report or if it’s different site that you need to report there and fill a DMCA. The thing is even you are protected some people still steal stuff and post as theirs


You do not have to finish writing it. As soon as you write it you own the copyright.


You could officially register it anytime but that would honestly be a waste of money. If you register it while you’re still writing then you’ll have to pay again when its complete and edited.

That’s just silly honestly.

So take the free copyright that comes with just writing it and don’t worry about maybe being stolen. I’ve been plagerized, it’s not a nice feeling so I can appreciate the fear of it, but the only way to 100% avoid it is to never share it. That includes publishing it. It can be stolen off Amazon just as easily as it can on wattpad.


Any time, but because registering a copyright costs money ($35 in the US, $65 in Canada), most people never do it, and those who do will generally register a copyright after the work is in its final, publication form - often after publication.

Registering a copyright does not increase your work’s protection under the law. What it does do is make it easier to pursue a claim against an infringer in court, and generally get higher compensation if you win. For example, I think that in the US, if you win - and winning is more likely if you have registered - the infringer would automatically have to cover court costs, and the penalty might be doubled. So, in the US, copyright registration gives your claim more teeth. In Canada, it’s less clear that it does anything. But it doesn’t make the material any more ‘yours’ than it was the instant you wrote it.

There are some practical considerations. Many filings are by commercial outfits (including publishers) that believe that having to defend their claim is a realistic prospect. For example, material for advertising and promotion, or music that tends to get ripped off. For an individual, while filing might give you comfort, it may have limited practical value. Copyright registration is not the same as ‘title’ (i.e. evidence of ownership). It is just a public proclamation of ownership. Anyone can publicly claim to own your work - that doesn’t make it theirs in law. Taking an infringer to court is a slow and costly process, and even if you have registered your copyright, you still might have to bear the cost yourself. Many, many infringers do their infringement in jurisdictions (e.g Asian countries) where you have no effective way of suing them; they’ll just ignore you. A better path is to demand that commercial portals that distribute infringing work (e.g. Wattpad, which does sometimes inadvertently disseminate infringing works) take it down. Usually, they will.

Here’s a FAQ for US copyright protection and registration and a FAQ for Canadian copyright protection and registration.

Here’s a legal blog article about the benefits of registering in Canada; it mentions a representative case.

Someone mentioned the DMCA. That’s a set of modernization rules that, for the most part, don’t help you, the copyright holder, but rather protect Internet-based service providers like Wattpad from being sued when others use them to commit copyright violations.

I’m not a lawyer. Each person should do their own research and come to their own conclusions. Or consult a lawyer :slight_smile:


Having it on Wattpad actually gives you proof of ownership, so I would not worry overly much. Yes, there are people who might steal it, but no site is safe


In the US, you can’t file for copyright infringement in federal court unless you have a copyright registration. Of course there’s no time limit, so technically, you can register the day you bring suit.


You own the copyright to your work the second you write the first word. No one can take that away from you. The only purpose of the copyright registration is the proof that you are the registered copyright holder.

In the US, you usually have to upload a copy of your book to the registration site (it’s called a mandatory deposit), so it makes little sense to register a book before it’s finished. Any major revisions require re-registration.


Thank you! I had wondered if maybe I would need to re-register it after it was completed… I guess my biggest fear is having it permanently stolen. Like, someone sees it here on Wattpad, and then takes my idea and sells it to Harper Collins and becomes a millionaire off it. And people just point at me and laugh in court when I try to tell them it was all my idea in the beginning. I have a wild imagination, I know :wink:


Thank you!


I had wondered about that! I mean, I’ll be posting it online and everything on here is dated, correct? So if, somewhere down the road, someone attempted to copy my stuff, I could use my posts on Wattpad as proof that it’s mine.


I don’t believe we need to upload a copy for Canadian registration, so that’s what was giving me the idea to register the copyright before my work was finished.


Is it possible? Unfortunately yes. The second you put something out there it comes with a risk. But is it probable? Probably not.

It’s good to be aware of the possibility of it happening, just don’t let it rule you.


Correct. In principle you should not need to, as you have the rights automatically, but the proof is in the pudding as they say


I have no clue about Canadian laws and copyrights, so @gilharriss might be the advice to go by.