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Protecting Your Manuscript

By Shari Faden Donahue

Without any advance permission from the copyright office, copyright law actually grants your manuscript automatic copyright protection—from tangible inception through seventy years following your death. As an added precaution, protect your original manuscript via a process known as the “poor man’s copyright.” Simply mail yourself a copy of your children’s picture book manuscript with your name as copyright owner in addition to the word, “copyright,” and/or the copyright symbol. For the © symbol, press “Num Lock” on the right of your computer keyboard—then hold down the “Alt” key while pressing the numbers 0169 on your numerical keypad (located at the right of your computer keyboard); the number keys on the top row will not work.

When the envelope arrives at your address, do NOT open it. Place the sealed envelope in safekeeping with other important documents. Though this process is not a substitute for official registration, your sealed envelope—imprinted with a clearly marked date by the U.S. Postal Service—serves as a vehicle to prove that you are indeed the author of the enclosed material. For more information regarding copyright, call the U.S. Copyright Office at 202-707-3000 or visit