A Walk-Through of the Copyright Page


A Walk-Through of the Copyright Page

In their zeal to dive into the newest work by their favorite author, readers often flip quickly past the copyright page.

After all, why pore over a bunch of legal information when the author’s voice is calling from just a few pages away?

But the page, located on the back (or verso) of the title page, holds a wealth of information that can suddenly become very interesting to writers nearing publication (especially if they’re self-publishing their work).

Read on for the main parts of the copyright page.

Publisher’s Address

The copyright page usually lists the publisher’s name, address, and (often) web address.

Self-publishers might choose to form their own publishing company, and the U.S. Small Business Administration is a good resource for starting and naming your business, creating a business plan, and other such information.


While the Copyright Act of 1989 does not require that works contain a valid copyright notice to receive protection under copyright laws, most still choose to list the copyright on the copyright page—and, come on, it’s the copyright page!

Most copyrights look something like this, with the copyright year matching the year of publication:

©2018 by John Doe

The copyright is also usually followed by some version of the “All rights reserved” statement.

A substantially new edition of a book will receive a new date assignment and could result in something like this:

©1997, 2005, 2018 by John Doe

Copyrights for books published before January 1, 1978, may also be renewed, resulting in something like this:

©1936 by John Doe; © renewed 1964 by the Estate of John Doe

For books published after this date, the copyright lasts for the life of the author plus an additional 70 years.

More information about the length of copyright protection can be found here.

To register or not to register?

Registering your copyright is not required to receive copyright protection, but some still choose to do so as a further precaution. Registrants must pay a fee and send copies of the book to the Copyright Office. More information can be found here and here.

What about works in the public domain?

When a work has fallen out of copyright and into the public domain, no copyright is listed.

What the heck is ℗?

This is a performance copyright, protecting the audio narration of a work. As an editor at Recorded Books, I listed the ℗ credit on thousands of audiobook covers.

The ℗ credit is linked to the year the audiobook is published, so you could have a copyright of 2007 for the original work but a ℗ credit of 2018 for the audiobook edition.

More information about copyright can also be found on this helpful post from the Chicago Manual of Style.

Publishing History

The publishing history of a work is expressed in statement such as this:

First edition published in 1887.

Fiction Disclaimer

This disclaimer may take many forms, but it usually sounds something like this:

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Country of Printing

The country where the book was printed is listed on the copyright page, so you will usually see “Printed in the United States of America” or “Printed in China” or “Printed in” whatever other country is appropriate.

The Number Line

Perhaps the bit of information whose meaning is least apparent on first glance, the number line (or printer’s key) indicates the print run.

The number line can be represented in a few ways, but it might look like this:

2 4 6 8 10 9 7 5 3 1

Whatever the order of the numbers, the lowest number is removed with each printing, so for the second printing of this work, the “1” would be removed, and you’d have this:

2 4 6 8 10 9 7 5 3

International Standard Book Number (ISBN)

The ISBN is a unique identifier for your book, sort of like your book’s Social Security number. You will need a separate ISBN for each version of your book (that is, an ISBN for the hardcover, another for the paperback, and another for the ebook).

More information can be found at Bowker, the only official source for ISBNs in the United States.

Acknowledgements, Permissions, and  Other Credits

Acknowledgements of previously published parts of the book, illustration credits, and permissions for quoting from copyrighted material are also listed on the copyright page.

Credits for the cover art, the cover art designer, and the designer for the book’s interior (text) may also be listed here, and will look something like this:

Jacket design by Jane Doe

Photograph of lion ©2018 by Shutterstock

If you see “Design by So-and-So” on the copyright page and “jacket” or “cover” is not mentioned, the credit usually refers to the typesetting and design of the interior pages.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication (CIP) Data

CIP data is bibliographic information prepared by the Library of Congress to facilitate book processing for libraries and book dealers.

Information about obtaining CIP data can be found here.

There is no charge to obtain this data, but the publisher is required to provide a complimentary copy of the book.

Other Information

We’ve covered the major pieces of the copyright page, but the page may also include such information as the International Standard Serial Number (ISSN), a Digital Object Identifier (DOI), and translation information.

That’s a lot to process, but the next time you open a book, you just might find yourself lingering over this data-rich page.

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