Copyrighting a work
Question: When should my novel be copy written?Answer:
Copyright is automatic. As soon as you have finished a draft, you have copyright on it.
Of course, you can register your copyright if you are worried about protecting it. Registration is necessary to launch a lawsuit if your copyright has been infringed. But this is usually not necessary in the publishing industry (partly because most novels don't make enough money for it to be worthwhile to pursue expensive lawsuits - which also makes them not worth stealing). Of course, if your book becomes such a bestseller that you have reason to fear piracy, it may be worthwhile registering.
If you sign a contract with a publisher, make sure you retain copyright and merely grant the publisher the exclusive right to publish your work for a period of time (after which the rights revert to you). Other rights, such as subsidiary, foreign, worldwide, electronic, etc. need to be negotiated and may be sold separately. Your agent will help you with this.
It is always a good idea to register screenplays, since lawsuits are more common in the film industry and the amount of money writers get for a screenplay is more substantial (the Writers Guild of America offers a registration service).
If you want to register copyright on a novel and you are in the U.S., you submit a copy to the U.S. Copyright Office along with a $35 fee. Check their website for the most recent procedures. Governments in other countries have similar registration services. Many countries have mutual agreements concerning copyright, so registering in one country automatically protects your rights in other countries where agreements exist.