The first thing you need to know about how to copyright an image is that every single image you create is automatically yours. What this means is that you automatically own the copyright of any photograph you take. You also own the copyright to any original image that you create.
So, why do you need to copyright an image? The problem with simply taking pictures and not copywriting them is that anyone can try and rip you off. By getting your images copywritten, you have definitive proof that you are indeed the owner of your own photographs. It’s a shame that you have to have proof of this, but it’s easy enough to do and can save you a lot of headaches in the future.
There is only one legal way to register your pictures. You need to register for a copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office. This will grant you legal proof that whichever images you decide to copyright belong to you. If someone ever tries to steal your image and claim it’s theirs, you will have legal evidence to back up your side of the claim.
Today we’re going to learn how to copy an image the right way. This applies to any original image that you created, either by taking a photograph or by editing your own pictures.
How to Register a Copyright
The first step is to register your images with the U.S. Copyright Office. Every photograph you take indeed belongs to you, but it doesn’t hurt to formally register your favorite pictures to prevent a lawsuit or to prevent someone from stealing them.
A registration is legal evidence of ownership. You can do this either through the mail or online. It’s quite easy and you don’t even need to speak with anyone.
Once your pictures are registered, if somebody tries to use your work without your permission, you’re able to sue them for damages. This is one of the huge bonuses to registering your pictures for copyright.
However, be sure that you stay away from any registration service that is not by the government. Do not hand your pictures over to third-party organizations or services. The U.S. Copyright Office is the only legitimate office by which to register for legal copyright.
It’s also important to note that a U.S. copyright will last for 70 years beyond your death. This means even after you die, the pictures you have copywritten will still belong to you.
The best way to file for copyright is to do so online. It’s cheap, quick, and extremely simple. You also don’t need to register just a single photograph at a time. You can file an entire collection of work to have copywritten at once. This can be any number of photos, with all of them being registered as your very own property.
In general, it costs about $35 to register one piece of work online with the U.S. Copyright Register. The price from multiple works at once could be a little more, you’ll need to check the site to see just how much. Sometimes, it depends on the size of the files.
Once your pictures have been sent to the registry, it will usually take about 8 months for them to be processed. But even if somebody tries to steal your photographs in that eight-month window, you will get a proof back that you sent them away to be copywritten first, assuring you win any legal battle that may arise in those months.
Is a Copyright Proof of Ownership?
Here’s the deal with owning copyright, it doesn’t actually mean that you own that specific picture. When you register for copyright, the office will mail you a formal certificate saying that you own the copyright to the image. There is no actual way for them to know that the image is yours. They only know that you are the first to claim ownership for it by requesting for an official copyright.
What this means is that if you were to have some legal issues with the image, the copyright is not irrefutable proof that you created it. However, if someone were trying to dispute your claim to the copyright of a particular image, it would fall upon them to produce convincing evidence of their ownership. Since you’re the one with the copyright, you will almost always win these kinds of cases.
Be sure that you always hold on to the proof of copyright ownership that the U.S. Copyright Office sends you in the months following your registration.
How Do I Copyright an Image with a Watermark?
If you’re planning to post your pictures online, you may want to consider adding a watermark to them. It’s true that if you post your image in a public forum, other people can see it, download it, and view it as many times as they want. They can even save it and edit it, or use the image privately.
But since the image is copywritten, nobody is allowed to duplicate or distribute any copies of your work. But this doesn’t always stop people from stealing images and doing whatever they want with them. Rather than scanning the Internet for unauthorized uses of your photographs, it’s easier to just watermark them.
It’s possible to add an official copyright notice to your images in the form of a watermark. To create a copyright watermark, simply write the copyright symbol “©”, followed by the year that your photo was taken, then your name. In the end, it will look like this:
© 2021 Jane Smith
You can then add the copyright warning to your photograph using photo editing software. Either that or you can post the copyright information underneath the photo or somewhere near it. Just seeing that the image is under copyright will normally stop most image thieves from trying to rip off the picture.
There are free services online such as Watermark-Images where you can create a watermark to dissuade people from stealing your pictures. Alternatively, do it yourself with editing. Be sure to ghost the watermark over the center of your picture, making it a huge hassle for anyone to try and remove it. Plus, everyone will see your name in the photograph. It’s like free publicity.
What To Do If Someone is Using Your Image
If someone is using your image without your permission, your first course of action is to file a takedown notice. Even if you’re still waiting for confirmation of your copyright in the mail, the picture belongs to you and you have every right to send a cease-and-desist letter to whoever is using your picture.
But here’s where things get a little tricky. If you do not have the copyright confirmation, you’re not able to legally enforce your ownership of the picture in court. You must register your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office before taking a person who ripped off your image to court. The best you can do in the meantime is ask them to stop and insist that they remove the image.
If the individual refuses – assuming you have the copyright – it’s time to file a lawsuit. That’s where things get extremely complicated with lawyers, fees, and months and months of waiting.
The most important thing to remember is that once you snap the shutter of your camera, that image belongs to you. Regardless of filed copyright claims, that is your picture. It is automatically copywritten without you needing to file with the registry.
The main reason to file a request for copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office is so that you have definitive proof that you were the person who took that photo and you are the person who owns the copyright of it. The issue with this is that it costs money. You must pay each time you register images, whether it’s a single image or a lot of images.
For this reason, we recommend that you stick to copywriting only your most valuable images. Elsewise, you will be spending a whole lot of money.
As an alternative to filing for copyright every time you take a picture, simply try to be a bit more creative with how you post your pictures. You can create your watermark logo, even if your picture isn’t copywritten. You can create a watermark that is your name and plaster it over your pictures when you post them online. This will dissuade people from stealing them.
Also, be sure to carefully read all the terms and conditions on whichever site you upload your photographs onto. For example, some picture contests might claim unlimited use of any picture posted in the contest, and this might not be what you want. Read the fine print before uploading pictures anywhere.
And finally, you can make it harder to steal your pictures by disabling the right click when you post. When someone tries to take your picture, they won’t be able to right-click on it. This will usually make them frustrated enough to move on.