There are many who complain about government bureaucracy, but you’ll find little about which to complain when you apply for a electronic copyright at the U.S. Copyright Office. It only costs $35 to file a copyright for an ebook and the process happens very quickly, although there are a number of forms to fill out. And I suspect the application process would work during a government shutdown.
There’s even an exhaustive PowerPoint tutorial — DON’T click this unless you want to download the tutorial — that takes you through the process step by step. The one step that may surprise you is that after going through all the work of creating an EPUB or MOBI file, the copyright office would prefer a Word, RTF, text, PDF or HTML file. Click here to see the acceptable file types.
You can submit your document via regular mail and the website even will fill out the label for you, but it seems silly to submit an ebook by mail.
Another thing that may take you by surprise is that when you’re ready to pay, you’re temporarily taken to a different site, but you’re returned to the Copyright Office website afterward.
I have to admit I know little about the ins and outs of copyright law. I suspect you could still just send yourself a certified letter with a printed copy of your work to prove your authorship, but there’s something very satisfying about submitting your work to the government.
Incidentally, the Copyright Office also has an option for pre-registering your work. You only need to do this if “you think it’s likely someone may infringe your work before it is released.”