U.S. copyright law doesn't protect concepts or ideas for jewelry, but it does protect specific jewelry designs as works of visual art. A piece of jewelry is protected as soon as it is made, even if it is never formally registered. But registering your jewelry will help you in several ways if you ever have to take someone to court for copying it. These include helping prove that you created the jewelry and allowing you to collect attorney fees if you win. If you create jewelry that is particularly distinctive or if you are concerned about people copying it without permission, copyright registration is probably a good idea.
Determine whether your jewelry has been published. Although you don't normally think of jewelry being "published," the copyright laws use this term to refer to public distribution. If you offer your jewelry for sale to the public, or even give it away, you "publish" it for purposes of the copyright law.
Decide whether to register multiple pieces at once. If you have multiple jewelry designs to register, and all of them are unpublished, you can generally register them together as a collection unless they have different designers. This saves you time and money by allowing you to fill out one form and pay one fee for all of them.
Start an online registration. Go to "electronic copyright office" on the U.S. Copyright Office website and follow the instructions to sign in and begin a new registration. When asked what type of work you are registering, choose "Work of the Visual Arts."
Fill out the application form. Enter the requested information about you and your jewelry. If you are registering multiple pieces, you will need to add a title for the collection as the "title of work being registered" and then add a title for each piece as a "contents title." If you have trouble filling out the form, consider contacting a copyright attorney or an online legal document service.
Pay the filing fee. The website will prompt you to make a credit or debit card payment. You can find the current fees on the Copyright Office website.
Upload identifying material. This can be one or more drawings or photos that show every part of the jewelry. If you are registering multiple pieces, make sure to send identifying material for all of them- if you don't send material, it won't be registered. Once the Copyright Office receives your material they will process your application, probably for several months, and then send you a Certificate of Registration.
Tips & Warnings
If you only make a single piece of jewelry based on a design (or if you produce it in "numbered limited editions") the law may protect your "moral rights" as an artist. These include the right to be identified with your work and the right not to have it modified or destroyed.
You can also register a jewelry copyright by mail, although it's generally slower and more expensive than registering online. To do so, fill out a copy of Form VA from the Copyright Office website.
References & Resources
- U.S. Copyright Office: Copyright Basics
- Sarah Feingold: Know Your Rights to Jewelry Design
- U.S. Copyright Office: Copyright Registration for Works of the Visual Arts
- Nina Designs: Copyright Jewelry
- U.S. Copyright Office: Deposit Requirements for Registration of Claims to Copyright in Visual Arts Material
- U.S. Copyright Office: eCO Frequently Asked Questions
- U.S. Copyright Office: Copyright Fees
- U.S. Copyright Office: Form VA
- Electronic Copyright Office
- U.S. Copyright Office: eCO Tutorial
- Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images