Have You Registered Copyright On Your Images? Here’s Why You Should
The standard line about image copyright is “once you create the image, you have the copyright.” However, this commonly-believed rule is not strictly true. Yes, you do have copyright when you create an image. But do you have an enforcable copyright? That’s what makes all the difference.
Let’s say that you discover that one of your images is being used online, for commercial purposes, without your permission. Your next logical step would be to issue a DMCA takedown notice, or to inform the company that they are in breach of copyright. However, it is possible that if your copyright is not registered, your claim will not fall out in your favor. The law may ask: “what have you done to manage and protect your copyright?” If the answer is nothing, it’s not looking very good for you.
After you make the art, you need to register the copyright.
The important of USCO registration
Every photographer and artist needs to learn how to register copyright with the USCO, or the United States Copyright Office. Copyright registration is an important part of establishing formal ownership of copyright, and is a good tool to have in your toolbox in the case that your copyright is breached. In fact, it’s a good tool to have as a professional artist or photographer in general; it’s a step that shows you are serious about your career and work.
There are many ways to register image copyright online, and you can even work directly with Image Witness to get this important job done quickly and easily.
Registering copyright and international issues
If you are a US citizen, you should register your copyright with the USCO. In most cases, it will be your primary mode of protection against breach of copyright.
Believe it or not, it’s also good idea to register your copyright with the USCO even if you neither live nor work in the United States. This all has to do with the idea of “managing your copyright;” the US is a huge market, and taking the time to register your copyright with the United States Copyright Office is definite proof that you care about managing and protecting the copyright of your work.
The USCO is a formal government body and hence its the worldwide standard for copyright registration. There are other groups such as the UK Copyright Service, which provides copyright registration options for images and photographs, as well as other creative works. No, you don’t have to live or work in the UK to register with the UKCS.
What about copyright registration in other countries? Well, it depends on the country. Australia, for example, has no system of copyright registration, stating ”Copyright protection does not depend on publication, a copyright notice, or any other procedure. Copyright protection is free and automatic from the moment your work is on paper, or disk, or otherwise put into “material form”.”
This means that if you have made a formal registration at an international group (Preferably the USCO), you’re pretty well set towards proving copyright in case of a breach.
A note on the Berne Convention
If you start looking seriously into copyright law, you’re going to hear about the Berne Convention. In short: the Berne Convention, accepted in 1886, stated that countries in the Berne Union must acknowledge copyrights from other countries; that is, someone in the UK can’t steal an American photo just because the copyright is in the US and not the UK; your US copyright applies to the UK as well.
That gives you the opportunity to select only one country through which to register your copyright; although, some organisations recommend registering in multiple countries. What’s important, of course, is that you register — without that all-important registration, you might not be able to prove copyright of your images when you need it most.
Let me know if you would like any further details or where we can help further. We will tackle another topic in the image protection space soon.
References and image credits (if applicable):
Photo by Pat Loika