How to Copyright Photos

Written by leigh thompson
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How to Copyright Photos
Copyright protection is a type of intellectual property law. (Photo of the photographer, taking a photo image by Aleksej Kostin from Fotolia.com)

Copyright is a legal protection that is granted to authors of original works. The United States Copyright Office accepts applications for copyright protection; any original work is protected by copyright from the moment of registration. By applying for copyright protection from the government, you make your copyright public record. There are two types of forms you can use to register a copyright: an electronic form or paper forms. Only one of these must be completed.

Skill level:
Easy

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Things you need

  • Form CO-Application for Copyright Registration
  • Form VA-Visual Arts

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Go to the Electronic Copyright Application (see "Resources" below). Register an account with the Copyright Office. You need to provide your name, address, phone number and e-mail address. Create a user ID, a password and security questions.

  2. 2

    Click the link on the left side that says "Register a New Claim." Click the "Start Registration" link. You are guided through a series of screens in which you choose your type of work and provide a title, publication information and the authors. Designate a correspondent who the Copyright Office can contact with further questions. Provide your mailing address and certify that you are the owner of the rights to the photograph.

  3. 3

    Review your submission information for accuracy. Click the button to "Add to Cart." After the registration is submitted, the system requests an electronic copy of the work or asks if you will be submitting a copy via mail. Pay the filing fee.

  1. 1

    Complete the fill-in Form CO, which is available from the Copyright Office website. This form is an editable PDF that uses 2D bar-code-scanning technology. This bar-code technology speeds up copyright registration. It is important to use a new form for each copyright that you wish to register.

  2. 2

    Attach a copy of your photograph and the filing fee. You can pay by check or money order by mail. Dropped-off submissions can be paid for by check, money order or credit or debit card.

  3. 3

    Mail to or drop off your application at:

    U.S. Copyright Office

    101 Independence Ave, SE

    Washington, D.C. 20559-6237

  1. 1

    Complete the Form VA-Visual Arts. This form is available on the Copyright Office website. You can also call the Forms & Publications Hotline at 202-707-9100 and request a form by mail.

  2. 2

    Attach a copy of your photograph and the filing fee. You can pay by check or money order by mail. Dropped-off submissions can pay by check, money order or credit or debit card.

  3. 3

    Mail or drop off your application to:

    U.S. Copyright Office

    101 Independence Ave, SE

    Washington, D.C. 20559-6237

Tips and warnings

  • Call the Copyright Public Information Office at 202-707-3000 for assistance.

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