Can You Copyright a Title?

Have you been questioning whether you can (or should) copyright your title? We have expert advice to help guide you.
Author:
Publish date:

Q: I've been working on a book and the title is very important—I use it as the URL for my blog, for a weekly column I write, etc., and I want people to identify it with me. Can I copyright a title so others can't use it? –Anonymous

(Should You Copyright Your Book Before Submitting It?)

A: Copyrights cover works fixed in a tangible format, but because titles are typically short, they don't fall under copyright protection. So no, you can't copyright a title to a book, song, or movie. But you can trademark a title, which may give you the protection you seek.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office states that a trademark protects words, phrases, symbols, or designs identifying the source of the goods or services of one party and distinguishing them from those of others. Brand names like Pepsi, Xerox, and Band-Aid are all protected. So is the Nike "swoosh." But more relevant to us, book titles such as The Da Vinci Code and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone are trademarked.

Can You Copyright a Title?

Unlike copyright protection, which is granted the minute your work is written down, trademarks aren't handed out so freely. In fact, if the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office doesn't consider your title (or brand) a distinctive mark that is indisputably distinguishable from others, you will not be granted trademark protection. This is why you see so many books with the same—or very similar—titles. Many of the terms are considered too generic or arbitrary to warrant protection.

Trademarks are not only intended to protect the creator, but also the consumer. Trademarks keep others from confusing a well-known work on the bookstore shelves with others. For example, Harry Potter is such a popular, distinguishable character by J.K. Rowling that you'd expect any title with his name in it to be written by her (or, at least, a book approved by her). It's not only her work, but it's become her brand.

So if you use the title of your book as the title of your blog, column, etc., it could be considered your brand identifier. And if you find success, you could qualify for trademark protection.

    Query Letter in 14 Days

    Take your writing one step further and tackle the publishing process. When you enroll in this online course, you'll learn the details of the query letter format and how to write a query letter that catches the attention of agents and publishers.

    Click to continue.

    What Is a Pantser in Writing?

    What Is a Pantser in Writing?

    The world of storytelling can be broken into many categories and sub-categories, but one division is between pantser and plotter. Learn what a pantser means in writing and how they differ from plotters here.

    Too Seen: The Intimacy of Copy Editing

    Too Seen: The Intimacy of Copy Editing

    Novelist A.E. Osworth discusses their experience working with a copyeditor for their novel We Are Watching Eliza Bright and how the experience made them feel Witnessed.

    writer's digest wd presents

    WD Presents: From Our Readers Announcement, Upcoming Webinars, and more!

    This week, we’re excited to announce a call for From Our Readers submissions, a webinar on crafting expert query letters, and more!

    April PAD Challenge

    2021 April PAD Challenge: Day 11

    Write a poem every day of April with the 2021 April Poem-A-Day Challenge. For today's prompt, write a prime number poem.

    Stephanie Dray: On Writing Women's Legacies

    Stephanie Dray: On Writing Women's Legacies

    Bestselling and award-winning author Stephanie Dray shares how she selects the historical figures that she features in her novels and how she came to see the whole of her character's legacies.

    From Script

    Taking Note of the Structure of WandaVision and Breaking in Outside of Hollywood (From Script)

    In this week’s round-up from ScriptMag.com, learn about the storytelling techniques used in the nine-part Disney+ series "WandaVision," outlining tips for writing a horror script, and breaking in outside of Hollywood as a writer and filmmaker.

    April PAD Challenge

    2021 April PAD Challenge: Day 10

    Write a poem every day of April with the 2021 April Poem-A-Day Challenge. For today's prompt, write a get blank poem.

    take two 3 mistakes writers make in act i

    Take Two: 3 Mistakes Writers Make in Act I

    Without a solid foundation, our stories flounder. Jeanne Veillette Bowerman shares insights into the three mistakes writers make when creating the first act.

    David Jackson Ambrose: On Balancing Magic and Practicality

    David Jackson Ambrose: On Balancing Magic and Practicality

    Novelist David Jackson Ambrose discusses the initial themes he wanted to explore in his latest novel, A Blind Eye, what the editing process was like, and how his books always surprise him in the end.