Tips on Registering Your Work with the Copyright Office

I recently hosted a webinar featuring the Copyright Zone Guys: photographer Jack Reznicki and lawyer Ed Greenberg. They presented some eye-opening facts and stories about image theft, misuse and the importance of registering your work with the US Copyright Office.

Perhaps most enlightening, Jack and Ed cleared up a common misconception among artists, that registering work is NOT $35 per piece, rather $35 per registration. Further, a single registration can contain hundreds, or thousands of images. This past year in fact, Jack registered a single body of work containing 11,000 images, all for $35!

So why is this such a big deal? Because no one can truly predict how valuable a photo or piece of art, or song or any other creative work is going to be. A snapshot today could turn into a famous image tomorrow. It could happen… Your friend’s girlfriend is discovered as a great actress and becomes famous. That photo from the party you guys were at can become a hot commodity. Your early work as a painter, worthy of little more than hanging on your mother’s fridge might be of desire by a collector someday. Maybe that track you laid down with your buddy on a whim will go viral. As far-fetched as these examples might be, the point is that the work that you produce is yours and you have the right to protect it!

Among the variety of reasons why you should register your work, a registered copyright may be the deciding factor in winning a copyright infringement case. Better yet recouping the true losses or damages associated with its theft or misuse.

So, where do you begin?

1) Start by determining what you want to register. Maybe it's a single piece of work. A particular photo-shoot. A timeframe, such as a month or year’s worth of images.

2) Head over to the US Copyright Office website. Here you will create an account in the eCO system. Once you have created an account you can begin to Register a New Claim.

Having reviewed the process and registering my first body of work, I found the system to be fairly straight forward, albeit long. It is after all a government site.

I highly recommend that you review the convenient TipsFAQs and docs on the site. They were a big help. Give it a try, and protect your work!

Check out the webinar with Jack and Ed below, and visit their blog for additional fun facts (and horror stories) about copyright. Oh, and if you are still questioning whether it is worth the time, money and effort? Check out Jack and Ed’s blog post: 1.6 million reasons to Pay $35!

Disclaimer: I am by no means a legal authority or otherwise expert in the field of copyright. I am merely relaying information that is publicly available on the process of registering your work with the US copyright office. Should you find yourself in a situation where you believe that your legal rights have been violated, I highly suggest that you consult an attorney with experience in such cases. And don’t walk and chew gum at the same time either. That could be dangerous.

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