US Copyright Office to Offer Online Registration

Michael Brown over at Macro Art In Nature reported a tasty little tidbit the other day. The US Copyright Office will be offering the option to file a copyright registration online. This means several things for photographers who wish to copyright their photos:

  • Lower Fee ($35 rather than $45)
  • Faster Processing Time
  • Earlier Date of Registration
  • Track Status Online
  • Online Payments

Copyrighting your photos is generally a good idea if you're planning on selling your work in one fashion or another. In truth, you own the copyright to a photo as soon as you capture it. But by formally registering the copyright of your photos with the government, you essentially give yourself a better chance at proving that you do indeed own that copyright. This makes life easier if you ever need to take somebody to court for using your work without permission — in fact, you must have registration of copyright prior to filing an infringement suit.

Another note on copyrights: Just because you own the copyright to an image, it doesn't mean you can use it for whatever you'd like. Copyrights are like patents in nature — they don't enable you to use something, they disable others from using it without permission. If you take a photo of something with a company logo on it, you own the copyright to that image. What you don't own is the permission to use or sell that photo of the logo as you wish because the logo is owned by somebody else. That somebody else also has no ownership of your photo, nor can they take it from you or force you to hand it over to them. So just be mindful of what's in your photos when you plan on selling them or their usage.

Copyrights protect more than just photos. You can copyright literary work, music, drama, art, movies, sound recordings, and architecture. Copyrights do not protect ideas, only work that has been fixed in a tangible form of expression. You can learn more about copyrights at the Copyright Office Basics web page.

Online Copyright Registration