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Protecting Your
Copyright

A Primer for Artists

Understanding copyright law is a job for professionals and we certainly aren't copyright lawyers, but there are some fundamentals that you must be aware of and understand to properly protect your images.
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1) You own the copyright as soon as you create your work.
Whether you register your copyright or not, you have the right to control how your image is used. It may not be reproduced in any fashion without your permission. That means, unless you specifically transfer the rights to someone else, or license it for a specific and limited use, no one can, legally, make copies of your work without your permission. Unless you specify otherwise, your client, does not purchase any of your rights to reproduce your work when they purchase your painting, photo, or other artwork. They are simply purchasing the painting itself. They can't make Giclée prints with it, they can't do gift cards, they can't use it on their Christmas cards, or business cards, or website, or any other personal or commercial use without your permission!
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2) So why do I have to register my copyright?
Technically, you don't. Because you own the right to determine who, if anyone, can copy and use your work from the moment of it's creation, you are on firm legal ground… if you can prove that you did indeed create the work prior to the person who is using it without your permission. There's the rub, as the Bard would say. Proving your ownership. To that end, the government provided a registration service that, for a small fee, would provide proof of when you registered the work with them. usually they require that you submit several copies of the work (in the case of visual submissions, photo's- even digital files such as CDs- will do). The Copyright office then stamps all the submissions with the date and time, files one or more sets, and returns one to you for your records. If you are ever forced to go to court to defend your copyright, you have an official government document proving you own the rights. This does not mean the government will assist you in any way in defending your copyright. They are not granting you anything. They don't bestow copyright upon you, they simply provide a record of when you provided them a copy of your work. It is not anything like a Patent or Trademark.
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3) So I should put the little © symbol on all my works, right?
That used to be the case, but with recent changes to copyright law, you are no longer required to include the "copyright bug" in the work. You can if you wish, but it is now your choice.
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4) It's kind of expensive, do I have to register each piece individually?
No! If you have a body of work that you haven't registered, put it together in a book and just register that. Make sure the pictures accurately represent each work, and you'll be fine. It can also be done digitally with a CD or DVD also, but remember, your copyright lasts for years after you pass away and, with any luck, that will be many years from now. CD's and other digital media have a relatively short shelf life (as low as 5 years). We can help you prepare a book, CD, or DVD for submission, just give us a call! After all, making your images look great is what we do…