Wednesday night's class was just amazing! Fifteen of my sixteen students came back, so I guess I did okay last week on my first night of teaching. Their homework was to read a certain portion of the textbook, come up with a sentence to describe their book, and try to answer ten questions in the textbook that are a precursor to writing a book proposal. All but one of the students in attendance had a sentence composed, and eleven of them answered the ten questions. I am so proud!
Going through each person's sentence took a large chunk of the class time, surprisingly. Everyone was great about asking for clarification on the topic and offering suggestions on how to tighten up or improve the sentences. It was really great feedback, so I hope the students found it to be beneficial. We also covered ways to organize your writing both on and off the computer, and covered the principles behind a well-written book proposal.
One of the questions that came out of this week's class is whether or not you can copyright the title to your book. Two of the students understood that it is not possible to copyright the title, so I did a little research on this issue. Here is a quote from the U.S. Copyright Office website:
How do I copyright a name, title, slogan or logo?
Copyright does not protect names, titles, slogans, or short phrases. In some cases, these things may be protected as trademarks. Contact the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, 800-786-9199, for further information. However, copyright protection may be available for logo artwork that contains sufficient authorship. In some circumstances, an artistic logo may also be protected as a trademark.
According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, a trademark generally protects brand names and logos used on goods and services. A copyright on the other hand protects an original artistic or literary work. In order to be granted a trademark, your title must have a distinctive mark that is distinguishable from other titles. In other words, you cannot use terms in the title that are considered to be too generic or arbitrary to warrant protection.
So there you have it - you cannot copyright the title of your book. I guess that explains why there are books in print that carry the same title.