Do copyrights apply to book titles?

| Jul 25, 2020 | Copyright Law

You write a book, release it, and then notice there is another book with a similar title that came out shortly after yours. Worried that this may detract from your own sales, you wonder if you can copyright the title and force them to change it. Will this work?

Typically, it will not, as titles usually do not fall under copyright protection. You own the content of your book and plagiarism is illegal, of course, but titles are often just fragments containing a few words and are not protected. If your book is titled “Healthy Eating in 2020” and the other book is titled “Healthy Eating Guide 2020,” you are not going to be able to claim that it infringes on your rights under copyright laws.

That said, you may be able to claim that your title is part of your branding, and then you may be able to trademark it. The most famous example of this being done is with the Harry Potter series, written by J.K. Rowling. All of the book titles start with the “Harry Potter and the” format, and she has trademarked it so that no one else can begin using the same format. That would infringe on the brand she has created, which focuses on Harry Potter as a character and uses the same title format to let the reader know all of the books are in the same series.

These types of intellectual property disputes can get fairly complicated. It is wise to work with an experienced legal team that can guide you through the process.