A couple blogposts ago, I wrote about the process of choosing a title for Getting Some here. That process took place a couple years back, when I was actually writing the book and thinking about what I’d call it. Imagine my dismay (on uploading to Amazon.com this year) when I discovered that there was another novel by the name of ‘Getting Some’.
I didn’t panic, although I was a little disappointed that my book wouldn’t be the only one with that title. I took a little advice from a solicitor friend, who assured me that book titles aren’t afforded copyright protection.
Basically, literary works which meet certain qualifying criteria obtain copyright protection, which means that the law will deal fairly strictly with anyone who infringes your copyright by copying significant portions (or all) of your literary baby. Copyright essentially means you have the exclusive right as an author to prevent anyone gaining economically from your work, and to prevent anyone altering it without your permission. We use the term ‘Copyright’ loosely to refer to a bundle of economic and moral rights I won’t go into here.
There is generally no formal system of registration of copyright (meaning that it’s not like a trademark that you have to register with a Government authority to get protection). Your work qualifies for protection as soon as it’s written. Companies which offer a registration service do so because that service helps you to establish in court when you created your masterpiece, and specifically, that you did so before the person who you allege copied from you. Look here for some myths about Copyright and here for some good basic info about copyright.
But back to the title.
In a nutshell, titles don’t quality for Copyright protection because they are thought to be insufficiently expressive to justify protection. For the same reasons, lists and names don’t usually qualify for protection. You can, however, see whether the name of your book might be afforded trademark protection, which is a whole other kettle of fish I won’t try to address here.
The point is, if you find that you’ve come up with a title that isn’t as original as you thought, don’t despair! You’re not infringing anyone’s copyright, although you might want to consider whether the title’s good enough to risk the confusion which can ensue in the book market.
And just in case you’re still doubtful, here are some actual examples:
‘Who Dares Wins’ was written by Tony Geraghty, Peter Legge and Laurie Matthew. ‘Twilight’ was done by Stephenie Meyer, Meg Cabot, Elie Wiesel and Cate Tiernan and Judy Blume and Karen Kingsbury both did ‘Forever’.
What’s in a name, indeed.