How To Copyright Artwork

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Your Photo—Your Rules! How To Copyright Artwork the Easy Way

Being an artist in a world dominated by the internet is full of great opportunities and increased risks of copyright infringement. It takes just a few clicks to share images on blogs and social media without giving credit or download art from your website and use it for commercial purposes.

Understanding how copyright works and what the relevant copyright laws for art are, like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), is crucial for every artist and visual communication professionals nowadays.

Should I Copyright My Drawings and Other Artwork?

As soon as the figments of your imagination show up on paper, computer screen, or some other tangible medium, you can claim the copyrights. That creative work is yours, and you have exclusive rights to selling it, making copies of it, or displaying it publicly unless some existing agreement states otherwise.

You don’t have to publish your artwork first or exhibit it to the general public to exercise those rights, but what happens if you encounter infringement that cannot qualify as fair use or doesn’t stop because of takedown notices?

If you’re thinking about action, you should know that it won’t be possible unless you register your work with the United States Copyright Office—a part of the Library of Congress that deals with copyright records and certifications.

Besides the possibility to file for infringement, copyright registration comes with these benefits:

  • Prima facie evidence of the copyright’s validity
  • Eligibility for statutory damages, attorneys’ fees, and costs if registered before infringement or within three months from the publication date
  • Protection against the imported copies that infringe on the author’s rights

How To Copyright Art

Understanding the difference between copyright notices and copyright claims and the type of content that falls under the DMCA protection might not sound like fun, but it’s better than losing money and opportunities due to intentional and unintentional infringement. The most important item on your to-learn list should be how to copyright your artwork.

To officially register your artwork or other creative content expressed in a tangible format, follow these steps:

  1. Sign up for a free Copyright Office account using this link
  2. Select Register after you log in
  3. Fill out the lengthy registration form
  4. Pay the registration fees as instructed
  5. Provide a copy of your artwork in one of the allowed formats

Besides registering online, you can copyright your work using mail, but it is more expensive and takes longer.

Registration can take between two and eighteen months, but if you’re wondering how long the copyright lasts, you’re in luck. Once you register successfully, the copyright lasts during your lifetime and for an additional 70 years.

How Much Does It Cost To Copyright an Artwork?

One of the downsides of copyrighting your artwork is registration fees. The good news is that electronic registration is considerably cheaper:

Registrations of a Claim in an Original Work of Authorship

Online RegistrationsSingle author, same claimant, one work, not for hire$45
All other filings$65
Paper Registrations (Forms PA, SR, TX, VA, SE)$125

The Copyright Office offers multiple supplementary services at various prices. You can speed up the registration once you submit your request, but it will cost you $800. Pre-registering unpublished work comes at a price of $200. All the current fees are available on this web page.

How To Copyright Multiple Works of Art at Once

Since the artwork category is broad, the procedure of copyrighting a single painting or sculpture is not the same as registering several photographs. There are three official ways to register multiple works of art at once. You can register them as:

  1. A collection—Applies to unpublished works assembled in an orderly form and under a single title
  2. A single unit—Applies to published works that make up a unit (a board game with multiple pieces or a documentary with audio and visual parts, for example)
  3. A group—Applies to published photographs and contributions to periodicals

The official guides don’t provide much detail regarding group registrations. If you are in doubt about what qualifies as a collection or group, you can consult an attorney specializing in copyright law.

How To Copyright My Digital Art

Whether you’re a graphic designer or a children’s book illustrator, you should be aware that protecting your digital art online is not easy. Registering all of your designs may be the best option in the long run, but even group registration may cost an arm and a leg in the end. If you’re a struggling artist, every penny counts.

Here are several ideas that you can use to increase the protection of your digital art against infringement:

  • Include your signature in every piece of art you create
  • Keep digital records of your artwork, including creation dates and photos
  • Display your art in a flash slideshow to prevent downloads
  • Post only small-resolution images
  • Add watermarks to your online content

How To Copyright a Drawing for Free

Officially copyrighting creative content for free is not possible. If you’ve heard about the so-called “poor man’s copyright,” you should know that this method doesn’t have any validity as it’s not recognized by current copyright laws.

The poor man’s copyright refers to the practice of sending a sealed copy of your work to yourself using a postal service. Only the registered copyrights give you the chance to enforce your authorship rights in court.

Including a copyright notice is free, but it hasn’t been obligatory in the U.S. since 1989. While it isn’t as strong as certified registration, a copyright notice can protect your work against innocent infringement defense in court.

Every copyright notice should include these elements:

  1. The word Copyright, the abbreviation Copr., or the symbol ©
  2. The author’s name
  3. The publication year

DoNotPay Can Help You Protect Your Artwork With DMCA Notices

Another great weapon for protecting your art online if you don’t want or can’t afford to register it, is sending the infringer a DMCA takedown notice. Most people who copy or use copyrighted artwork do it unintentionally, and they usually stop after the author reaches out.

With DoNotPay, creating a custom-made takedown notice is easier than ever before. Why research complicated legislation and its terminology when our AI bots already know the ropes? The process takes several minutes and includes these steps:

  1. Create your DoNotPay account in a of your choice
  2. Select DMCA Takedown from the homepage
  3. Provide the necessary information about your artwork and where you noticed the unauthorized copy
  4. Verify your contact details
  5. Hit the Sign and Submit button to finish

It’s great if you have officially registered your work, but it’s not necessary for our takedown notices to work!

Use DoNotPay for Other Bureaucratic Troubles

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