How to Find Out If an Image Is Copyrighted?

By Thomas King

Federal copyright law protects "works of visual art." Images entitled to protection include photographs, drawings, diagrams, comic strips and other types of art work. An image is protected by copyright the moment it is created; generally, however, the owner of the image cannot recover damages from an infringer unless the work has been registered with the United States Copyright Office. You may be able to find out whether an image has been registered with the Copyright Office in several ways.

Step 1

Navigate to the United States Copyright Office website (link in Resources).

Step 2

Click "Search Records" at the top of the Copyright Office website.

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Step 3

Click "Search the Catalog" under "Online Records."

Step 4

Click "Set Search Limits." Select "Visual Materials" from the "Image Type" box and click "Set Search Limits" again.

Step 5

Choose a search method from the "Search by" box and type your query or keywords into the "Search For" box. For example, if you know that the image name is "Craddox Mazes," select "Title" from the "Search by" box and type "Craddox Mazes" in the "Search For" box. You can also search by keyword (such as a description of the image) if you don't know the title. If you do not have any information about the image, you may need to seek assistance from a Library of Congress staff member, as described in the next step.

Step 6

Click "Begin Search." If the image does not appear in the search results, it may mean that it was registered prior to 1978. Older images can only be found in the copyright card catalog, located in the Copyright Public Records reading room at the following address: Library of Congress Copyright Office–IRD Records Research and Certification Section 101 Independence Avenue SE Washington DC 20559-6300 Fax: 202-252-3485 Tel.: 202-707-6850 For help locating an image in the catalog, you can enlist a staff member to assist you. Be prepared to provide as much information about the image as you can such as title, artist, copyright owner and the date the image was published, if known. No fee is assessed if you perform the search yourself, but if you require staff assistance, you will be charged by the hour.

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How to Check If Something Has a Copyright on It
 

References

Resources

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Copyright & Fair Use Guidelines for School Projects

Using materials created by other people in a school project isn't necessarily a violation of the copyright laws. Students routinely lift images from web pages to illustrate a science project or quote passages from books in class papers. While the copyright law often protects such materials, the act of copying them may be protected by the fair use exception of the copyright law.

What Is Copyright Infraction?

With easily copied material available on the Internet, the likelihood of copyright infraction has increased. Copyright is a legal protection for the creators of original literary, musical, artistic and intellectual works. Protection generally lasts until 70 years after the creator’s death. A copyright owner has the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, display and prepare derivative works of the original work. Protection automatically exists as soon as the work is in fixed or tangible form, but optional copyright registration gives the owner the right to sue in federal court to protect the copyright.

How to Copyright a Documentary

Copyright is a form of protection that is available for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Your documentary film is entitled to automatic copyright protection from the moment it is recorded; however, you also have the option to formally register the work. Registration is beneficial because it creates a public record and allows you to recover monetary damages in the event that someone infringes on your documentary film. You can register in three ways: online through the U.S. Copyright Office, online using a document preparation and filing service such as LegalZoom.com or by mailing in paper forms.

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