How to Copyright Original Artwork

By Tom Streissguth

If you've created a work of art, you legally hold the copyright in that work. If you want greater protection of your rights, however, you need to take a further step: registration. This puts your work "on record" as your property, and allows you an important advantage if you want to file a claim against anyone who uses your art without permission.

If you've created a work of art, you legally hold the copyright in that work. If you want greater protection of your rights, however, you need to take a further step: registration. This puts your work "on record" as your property, and allows you an important advantage if you want to file a claim against anyone who uses your art without permission.

Reason to Register

Once you've fixed a work of art in tangible form, you hold the legal copyright as the creator of that work. If anyone copies or uses your work without your permission, they've violated your rights. You are entitled to sue the copyright infringer for any profits they made from your work. If you register your work with the U.S. Copyright Office, you can also claim damages up to $150,000, as well as attorney fees and court costs.

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Registering a Copyright

When you register a copyright, you establish yourself as the artist and set a date for the creation of the work. There is time, money and paperwork involved, but the process has become quite a bit speedier with the federal US Copyright Office website. You can submit the registration electronically or by mail; the fee is lower for the online service. You can also get help from an online legal document service, which will walk you through the process and provide the necessary forms.

Submission of Copies

In order to register a copyright, you must submit copies of your work. You can take this last step by uploading electronic images through the online service, or mailing copies of the work, such as a photograph. If you have more than one work of art to copyright, you can request a batch copyright. There is no limit on the number of works of art you can register.

Notice of Copyright

The final step in the process is to mark the work as registered; although the law doesn't require it, this step warns potential infringers. This involves adding a copyright symbol to the work and to all reproductions of the work. In addition, you must identify yourself as the creator, and give the year of the copyright. It's legal to identify a work as copyrighted even if you haven't registered it.

Protect against infringement by registering a copyright. Get Started Now
Copyright Registration Advantages & Disadvantages

References

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Components of Copyright Law

Title 17 of the United States Code contains the country's copyright law. U.S. copyright law defines the types of works that can be copyrighted, rights granted to a copyright owner and duration of that copyright protection. Additionally, the law sets forth the procedure for filing a copyright infringement claim when a copyrighted work is stolen. Lastly, the law explains the circumstances in which a copyrighted work can be used without permission.

Copyrights for Artwork

Copyright is usually associated with text and music, but it also covers most works of art — even sculpture. As long as the work is "fixed," which means it is in a tangible form, copyright rules apply. It is important for artists to be aware of these rules in order to protect themselves and their art.

Rules Governing Copyright Protection

The U.S. Constitution authorizes the federal government to grant copyright protection to original works of authorship. Copyright protection grants you a legal monopoly over certain uses of your work for the duration of the copyright. You don't have to be a U.S. citizen or resident to take advantage of federal copyright protection.

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