How To Copyright an Image in a Few Easy Steps

Copyright Protection How To Copyright an Image in a Few Easy Steps

Don’t Let Your Photos End Up On an Unknown Website—Learn How To Copyright an Image

Da Vinci’s rights to Mona Lisa expired long ago due to the limited duration of the copyright.

When you see a reproduction of a famous painting on a mug, tote bag, t-shirt, or bookmarker, you are likely to know who the artist behind it is. Unfortunately, that is not the case with art nowadays. 

It is hard to claim an image, photo, picture, or drawing as yours when, by cropping, people can take your signature off of it in seconds. 


To prevent and handle copyright infringement, it is crucial to learn how to copyright and how copyright laws, such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), protect your work.

What Can Be Copyrighted?

To understand how to copyright artwork, you need to understand how copyright works. Copyrights are the legal rights of the owner to copy, share, distribute, or make modifications to the intellectual property in question. That includes literary, dramatic, visual, or artistic works, such as:

  • Songs
  • Books
  • Poetry
  • Novels
  • Movies
  • Artwork
  • Computer software
  • Architectural designs

Copyright protection starts automatically. You get the aforementioned exclusive rights for your work as soon as it gets a tangible form. The question is if registering copyrights is not necessary, why do it? 

How To Put Your Copyright on a Picture

Sure, you already have exclusive rights to your image, but they don’t ensure immunity to copyright infringement. In case of violation, you need the best possible support for claiming your copyright. Registration is the most effective way to do that since it provides additional security by:

  • Providing a public record of ownership
  • Enabling a lawsuit for copyright violation
  • Making the owner eligible for statutory damages, attorney fees, and the cost of the lawsuit

The registration process goes through the United States Copyright Office, and it can be easily done with their new service—the Electronic Copyright Office (eCO)

Go to copyright.gov and register your copyright by following these steps:

  1. Select Register a Copyright and open the Photograph section
  2. Create an account
  3. Go to Register a New Claim
  4. Select Type of Work
  5. Choose Work of the Visual Arts
  6. Attach the image you want to register

To speed up the process, be as thorough as possible and don’t leave out a single detail. After you file the form, you will have to pay a registration fee of $35 for works of visual art.

What Is a Watermark, and Can I Use It for Putting a Copyright to Photos?

If you don’t think registration is the right option for you or you don’t want to pay the fee, there is another way to protect your photos. A watermark is a stamp placed on your photograph in the form of a copyright logo (©), or the word copyright with the name of the author and the year it was created.

By placing a watermark on your photos, you make sure that whoever takes your photo without permission cannot claim ignorance, which is often used in copyright infringement cases.

Another use of the watermark is that the placed logo is nearly impossible to edit or remove, so whoever stole your work must give you credit.

The Importance of Fair Use for Images

The fair use doctrine allows limited and reasonable use of copyrighted material for reframing purposes. Here is what qualifies as fair use:

  • Criticism
  • Teaching
  • Research
  • Commentary
  • News reporting 

Why is this relevant? When you’re writing a review of a product, article on a historical figure, report on the Mundial or Fashion Week, chances are you’ll need to include an image or two. That is where the fair use doctrine comes in handy. 

If your work qualifies for fair use, the U.S. copyright law grants you the right to use copyrighted photos without the owner’s permission. 

If you are not sure, since fair use is a gray area, consult your attorney to avoid legal penalties.

Did Someone Steal Your Pictures? Here Is What To Do

The DMCA guarantees protection against copyright violation in the digital realm. The main feature of DMCA protection is the takedown service, which allows you to take down the infringed work from a website by sending a takedown notice to the web host. Here is how you can file this notice:

  1. Go to the DMCA website
  2. Open the Takedown tab
  3. Choose Start a Takedown from the dropdown menu
  4. Enter takedown details
  5. Provide your account info
  6. Pick a takedown service
  7. Click Proceed to Checkout
  8. Make the payment

Use the following table for guidance in choosing a takedown service:

Full-Service Takedown Webmasters DIY Service
  • $199 per site
  • A brief fill-out form
  • Easy to use
  • Full DMCA service
  • $10 a month/$100 a year
  • A DIY takedown kit
  • Unlimited use
  • Recommended for webmasters

Once the web hosts receive the takedown notice, they are legally obliged to comply and take down the infringing content even if they believe that the claim is invalid. If the DMCA notice isn’t the right call, or you’ve made a mistake, the other party may file a counter-notice.

Why You Should Use DoNotPay To Take Down Stolen Content

Filing a DMCA takedown notice can be confusing, but hiring legal assistance is not cheap, and websites are not eager to process incorrectly-filled takedown forms. This means that having your work removed because of a copyright violation is not a straightforward task.

DoNotPay has all the work cut out for you! Log in to your DoNotPay account from a web browser and do the following:

  1. Select the DMCA Takedown feature from the main page
  2. Add information about your work
  3. Provide the link to the infringing website
  4. Verify your identity and account info
  5. Hit Sign and Submit

We will send the takedown notice on your behalf, and you can monitor the progress in the My Disputes tab. 

Can DoNotPay Help Me With Other Problems?

Glad you asked because we most definitely can! Whether you need to write a copyright notice, make a claim, or take down unauthorized content from Google or YouTube, we can help you.

Find out what is YouTube’s policy on copyright infringement and how to claim a copyright in that case. Learn how to copyright a song, video, and dance choreographies. Make sure to stay on the right side of the law and check some tips on how to avoid copyright infringement.

Open DoNotPay in your preferred web browser and get our help with: