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Can I register a book outline with the US copyright office, or does it have to be the finished work?

Portland, OR |

This is a nonfiction book, but I'd like to protect my synthesis and handling of the material. There's also potential for product lines or other businesses stemming from the information in the book, which is why I'd like to get a jump on copyright.

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Filed under: Intellectual property
Attorney answers 4

Best Answer

You could copyright an outline, either or both with the Copyright Office or the WGA West, but I don't see the point of copyrighting an outline. Doint hat wouldn't get the "jump" on anyone, because it's the EXPRESSION, ot the IDEAS, that are copyrightable.

Wait til your book is done, then register it. Please see the guides linked below. And while you're working on it, don't tell anyone about what you're writing.

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Sure, you CAN register an outline, as long as it represents some original authorship on your part. BUT, copyright doesn't protect the facts and ideas embodied in the outline.. it only protects the particular expression of those ideas and facts in your document.. So, by registering your outline, you may actually be sharing more than you want to with the public at large.

If you're concerned with others beating you to market with books about your subject, there may be better approaches.

You probably should consult with an experienced and knowledgable lawyer to get more specific answers to your questions.


You can. However, a copywriter does not protect ideas.

J Charles Ferrari Eng & Nishimura 213.622.2255 The statement above is general in nature and does not constitute legal advice, as not all the facts are known. You should retain an attorney to review all the facts specific to your case in order to receive advise specific to your case. The statement above does not create an attorney/client relationship.


When you start talking about product lines or other businesses, I think you need to be thinking more of Trademarks and Service Marks. That you should check out right now, as first use can be crucial to obtaining rights and an application based on a good faith intention to use is given legal status as a "constructive use" establishing international date of priority. I think when you are talking about getting a jump, you really are in need of trademark law assistance. Since you phrased this as copyright issue rather than trademark issue, I strongly advise you to seek an intellectual property lawyer versed in both, and most trademark, entertainment, copyright or patent lawyers are versed in both. I would suggest a patent lawyer consultation also if you think the "information" might be patentable.

So far, this is free to you. Until you pay a fee, I am not your lawyer and you are not my client, so you take any free advice at your sole risk. I am licensed in IL, MO, TX and am a Reg. Pat. Atty. so advice in any other jurisdiction is general advice and should be confirmed with an attorney licensed in that jurisdiction.