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Q: Do I need a license or registration before I start publishing?

Answer: Because the US Constitution protects the right of a free press, Americans do not need a license to become publishers. However, there are many benefits to registering your publication by obtaining an International Standard Serial Number or ISSN. It's also important to obtain a copyright on material that you publish. And every publisher should understand the international copyright laws.

Please pick up a book from Nolo Press called The Copyright Handbook by Stephen Fishman. Since you're a publisher, you'll be dealing with copyright law from many different angles, and you should have a good reference book like this one to help you. Call Nolo at 1-800-992-6656 or order it online from Amazon. Another helpful web site is The Copyright Web Site.

Obtaining an International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) is separate from copyright registration. The Copyright Office does not administer ISSN assignment. For information about obtaining an ISSN, write to: Library of Congress, National Serials Data Program, Serial Record Division, Washington, D.C. 20540-4160. Or obtain information from the Library of Congress Website at You get an ISSN number from them. Once you've got that, it will take care of any trademark issues you may have. The ISSN is also used by libraries and database publishers to keep track of publications. And you must have an ISSN to obtain preferred periodicals rates from the USPS. Its a useful number!

Hiring employees will require getting state and federal tax identification numbers, just like any other business must have. Finally, check with your local city, state or county department of commerce about business licenses. And make sure you find out from them whether or not you need a resale permit.

More Information

Read everything you need to know about starting new publications in our publishing business how-to book, Starting and Running a Successful Newsletter or Magazine. You can learn about creating content, recruiting freelancers, and digital workflows in our new book, Every Nonprofits Guide to Publishing.


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