An ISBN is simply a way to record your work. To ensure authorship is tracked. Copyright ensures your right as the owner to all rights and privileges of the book. It is very important to understand the difference. Using a site (industry standard) such as Bowker, you can accomplish both items quickly and efficiently.
This is a way to legally protect your book. Think of the ISBN as a code to allow all merchandisers (libraries and retailers) to track and know what book they are selling. The copyright protects the work itself from a legal standpoint.
A book copyright helps you protect your intellectual property and establishes the book as a legitimate piece of work that nobody can plagiarize. The definition of copyright is in the word - the right to copy (or rather, not to copy). Once you obtain a copyright on your work, it is illegal for others to replicate or sell it for profit. This right is solely yours (the author's). Keep in mind that nobody at Blue Handle is an attorney, so our advice is based on experience and research in effort to guide others along this process. It is not required to get a copyright but it is definitely in your best interest.
There are four primary rights that are granted once you get a copyright on a book:
- The right to reproduce or make copies of your work
- The right to distribute copies of your work
- The right to create a derivative work
- The right to display or perform your work publicly
You can see why it is imperative that you get your work copyrighted. To be clear, copyrighting your book is different from assigning an ISBN, that is, once you have an ISBN assigned to your title it is not automatically copyrighted. The ISBN is a national registry and catalogue of your book and the book metadata associated with it. The copyright, on the other hand, protects the content of that registered book. Think of it as legal protection, while the ISBN is simply a defined code for the industry and readers to know and be able to find your book.
The goal here is to create a public record of your work. You can go to https://www.copyright.gov/registration/ and fill out a copyright application. On this site you would select Registration and then Literary Works to register a book or unpublished work. There are tons of video tutorials and directions on the site to guide you through this process. The drawback of a copyright is that it costs a little money to register and apply for one ($85), but it is worth it in the end and gives you the official right to sue for damages should anyone steal your intellectual property. Another easy way to copyright is to get your ISBN and copyright combination through Bowker. It’s simple and protects your manuscript properly.