Beware of www.copyright.co.uk!

If you are an Indie author looking to copyright your work, be very careful when dealing with this website. Its homepage offers you a single copyright for £42. For this, it says you get 30 years’ secure storage of your uploaded file by a notary. Nowhere on that homepage is there any mention of terms and conditions. Clicking on one of their packages takes you to the next page where you’re told how much you have to pay to secure what level of security and whether or not what you’re paying for includes assistance in the event of litigation. The prices start at £42 and go up to £180. Underneath the £42 ‘CREATOR PLAN’ are the words: “Copyright Deposit Registration – 1 token.” Perfect, you may think: just what you need to protect the copyright on your book for the next 30 years. £42 seems reasonable.

WRONG!

At the very bottom of the webpage is what looks like the standard list of small print links:

·         HOME
·         COPYRIGHT REGISTRATION
·         LEGAL COPYRIGHT INFORMATION
·         WHAT CAN BE COPYRIGHTED?
·         ABOUT COPYRIGHT.CO.UK?
·         LEGAL
·         CONTACT US
·         HOW TO COPYRIGHT

That’s the stuff everyone goes through with a fine toothcomb, isn’t it? No, of course it isn’t. How about ‘Legal’, third from the bottom? You’d automatically read the small-print terms and conditions, wouldn’t you? Everyone does that, don’t they? No, of course they don’t, and this company knows they don’t.

One year after you have paid them the £42, they contact you to say that you owe them another £42, because what you signed up to is an annual contract for £42 per year in perpetuity for them to keep your file on their database. To get out of the contract, you have to have sent them a registered letter (which will cost you £6.45p.) 30 days prior to the expiration of the single year for which you have paid. They give you no warning, and they threaten you with legal action if you don’t pay them the additional £42. They also threaten to add the costs of their legal action to the amount you owe them. Only then do they tell you that all this is clearly stated in their terms and conditions and absolutely non-negotiable. Verbal cancellation over the telephone is not acceptable, email cancellation is not acceptable.

Try reading their terms and conditions. They are badly translated from the French with several unintelligible sentences. Clearly no literate English person employed by that company has ever read them; certainly, they have never been corrected by anyone qualified to do so. However, the gist is clear enough. Once you have bought that token, you are tied into one of their contracts, you will receive no prior warning, and twelve months later, the demands will start, after which will come the threats of legal action if you don’t go on paying them.

That’s bullying in my book, and I won’t tolerate it.

I wouldn’t be surprised if thousands of people find they have been ensnared by what I consider to be an unreasonable business practice bordering on the manipulative and devious (though of course I have no way of knowing how many others have fallen for it). Other companies with which I deal send out warnings before the expiry of a deadline, setting out your options clearly in time for you to make an informed decision about whether or not you want to go on availing yourself of the service on offer. Not this one.

No mention of an annual contract (except in the small print that hardly anyone reads because they assume it contains the usual safeguards with which no reasonable person would have issue). They sell you the package, send you instructions on how to upload (entirely automatically, of course) your file and send you a reference number to it. Then they wait out the next twelve months and come after you for the same amount again. When you protest that you already paid them for the token, they then tell you that what you actually did was sign a contract to pay them the same amount every year. Only then do they refer to their terms and conditions, and as you’ve missed the deadline, you have to pay them at least the same amount again; plus if you want to cancel the contract for the year after that, you have to send them notice via registered post, which I just discovered costs £6.45p.

You can make your own mind up, but I wouldn’t touch them with a bargepole from now on. I had exactly the same run-in with them in 2013. What we negotiated then was that they would accept my letter of cancellation of that ‘contract’ without my paying them the same amount again, and in return when I next needed a copyright, they would sell me one for a one-off fee. At least, that’s what I thought the agreement was (I still have the correspondence). I bought that copyright in 2016 (Book 6 in my series) for what I thought was a one-off fee as agreed. Days after twelve months had expired, the demands and threats began again. My emailed responses to those demands and threats have been ignored.

As soon as you upload your book into the Kindle Store and/or Smashwords and/or Createspace, there is your proof of copyright right there. It seems to me that you can reasonably assert that you have the rights to your own intellectual material, place the copyright symbol on it, and if subsequently you discover that someone else has published your book or any part of it under their name, then you can take appropriate action against them. After all, their publication would have to postdate your original one. Do tell me if I am wrong about that.

There are so many sharks out there, and in such circumstances, the letter of the law really is an ass. That won’t stop companies like this one riding that ass all over you if they get the chance, so BE VERY CAREFUL not to walk blindly into this particular trap.