© 2002 Peter Krogh www.peterkrogh.com
We are providing information on how photographers may copyright their
work. Although we believe it to be accurate, we are not responsible for
any errors or omissions. It is best to consult a lawyer or the US Copyright
office to make sure that you are following proper procedures. That having
been said, here's some information:
is Protection: Although all work is copyrighted at the moment of
creation, not all work is protected equally. If a registered work is later
infringed, the creator can recover actual damages (the fee that would
normally have been paid for the use), as well as Statutory (Punitive)
Damages and legal fees. A work that is infringed and has not been registered,
can only generate the Actual Damages. This means that, in most cases,
the cost of the suit far exceeds the recoverable moneys.
The one exception to
the above is work that has been infringed within 90 days of first publication.
In this case, it is still possible to register and have access to Statutory
Damages and Legal Fees. If you are in this position, you need to register
How to Register:
The procedure for submitting work to the copyright office varies according
to several factors. Unpublished work is the easiest to register, and affords
the most bulletproof registration. Work that has been published must be
submitted in a format determined by the date of its publication, which
is roughly divided into four categories. The first is work that has been
published within the last 90 days: the second is work published after
1989, third, work published between 1978 and 1989, and finally, work published
prior to 1978. Each of these categories has a set of rules governing the
format of submission, or "Deposit". They are outlined below.
Contact the Copyright Office:
The United States Copyright Office is there to help you. The phone number
for public assistance in preparation of copyright submissions is 202-707-3000
Work Published within the past
Work Published After 1989, and
prior to 90 days ago
Published Between 1978 and 1989
Formats for Registration Deposits
can be Challenged
Me to The LOC on Time
Credits and Errata
To simplify, unpublished work refers to work that has
never appeared in public. This means, in the broadest interpretation,
that it has never appeared in print, on the web, in a gallery show, or
on television. Registration of this unpublished work offers a nearly ironclad
copyright protection, one that cannot easily be challenged in court.
In order to register the work, you must prepare
a "Deposit" or submission to the Copyright Office, within the
Library of Congress. This deposit will serve as a permanent record of
your claim to ownership of the image. The deposit must be a clearly recognizable
copy of the image, so that upon infringement, you could demonstrate that
an image in question is yours. Additionally, the deposit should be made
in such a medium that it will still be viewable during the term of the
copyright, which, for independent creators, extends to 70 years after
the author's death. Of course, the Copyright office outlines the formats
it will accept for copyright deposits. Those can be found in in the instruction
portion of the Group Photo Registration Form.
You can register as many Unpublished images as you wish in one
submission. We strongly suggest that each photographer make it
as his goal to register EVERY unpublished image in his files.
the following options for Deposit of Unpublished work:
Copies: One of the easiest ways to register work is to
copy images in bulk with standard color print film. For Slide
Pages, this can be done on a standard light table, shooting a
page of slides at a time. You can also shoot an entire contact
sheet with print film.
Once you have shot the copy images, have
double prints made, and submit one set, and keep the other one
in your file, so that you can see exactly what registration and
print is in.
Like the Print Film protocol above, you can simply shoot copies of your
slide pages or contact sheets. You can then either submit them on CD ROM,
print the copy photos out, or both. If you submit on CD-ROM, we STRONGLY
suggest that you include a laser copy or Xerox of the deposit because
CD-ROM longevity is unknown. It is almost certain that the CD will not
be readable for the entire term of the copyright, and that might result
is the loss of copyright protection at some time inch future.
In either Case:
For slide pages or contact sheets that include one or more previously
published images, we suggest that you cover the published image
with a post-it note before rephotographing it.
Workflow: Since Registration
of Unpublished work affords the most protection, it is the most desirable.
Our suggestion is that you photograph every job before it goes out the
door, preferable on some permanent copystand setup. You can wait to submit
until the first of that work is about to be published. If you work on
projects that have a long lead time, this may mean biweekly or monthly
submissions. If your work gets published more often than that, you may
want to work the procedure below into your workflow.
Forms to Use:
We suggest using the Short Form VA to register unpublished images.
Here is an example of how it should look.
Here is an example
of a job that was shot rush, copied with a coolpix 990 and registered
unpublished before the ads came out.
is an example of a shoot where some of the images had been published
recently, but the bulk remained unpublished. This is how I split
up the submission.
within the past 90 Days
For work that has been published within the past 90
days, Copyright law provides an important special provision. It affords
full protection to the work retroactively from the date of first publication.
New regulations have actually made it easier to register a group of photographs
than an individual photo. Additionally, it obviously drives the unit cost
of registration down. We strongly suggest that all published registrations
be group registrations.
Workflow: If you do
the kind of work that is published on short turnaround times, such as
newspaper work, or if you have neglected to register work before it has
been published, then the 90 day window is for you. You can send in tearsheets,
copies of tearsheets, or good samples of the photographs to the Copyright
Office. We suggest the following formats:
Film Copies: Shoot copies of the work in
print and submit those photos.
Tearsheets: You can
simply send in tearsheets. Make sure that you indicate which photos you
are registering, if other photographer's work appears on those pages.
Copies of Tearsheets:
You can photocopy the tearsheets. Be sure to do a color photocopy
if the original usage was in color.
Make sure it gets
to the Library of Congress before the 90 days are up.
This date is calculated from the date of the earliest publication
in the group.
We suggest the Short Form VA for this, in conjunction with the Group Registration of Photographs Form. Here is an example
of how it should look.
To see an example of how to register your
recently published material, click here.
To see how to handle a shoot that has both
published and unpublished material, click here.
Work Published After February
28th, 1989, and prior to 90 days ago
If the 90 day window has gone by, but the work was published
after 1989, then the new Group Registration rules have made it much easier
to to register up to an entire calendar year's worth of work.
The new regulations permit the registration of up to one calendar year's
worth of published work to be registered at one time, for one $30 fee.
Additionally, the format for such deposits has been loosened considerably.
You no longer need to show how he work was used in print, but may now
simply submit a good example of the original photograph. This is a major
change in the registration procedure that ASMP has helped to bring about.
For most of
us, there are a relatively small number of images to register
from prior years, compared to the volume of unpublished work
from the same period. Therefore, we recommend the following protocols:
Copies: If you have copies of the work used in print,
then the easiest form of deposit may be to shoot print film copies
of it, and submit those.
You can also use a digital camera or scanner to scan the original
image or the printed piece, and use that as a submission. Is
either of these cases, we suggest that you accompany any CD-ROM
submission with a hard copy print out, in case the CD-ROM were
to become unreadable during the life of the copyright.
Send in the tearsheets. 'nuff said.
Copies of Tearsheets:
Make sure that you send in color photocopies if the work originally appeared
We suggest the Short Form VA for this, in conjunction with
the Group Registration of Photographs Form. Here
is an example of how it should look.
are several examples, including Images
published in a Stock Catalog and several Magazine
Work Published between
January 1, 1978 and February 28th, 1989
This is like the Work Published After February 28th,
1989 above, with one important exception. In order for the copyright office
to accept the Deposit, a proper copyright notice must have been placed
somewhere in the original publication. The notice MUST include the following:
Copyright (or ©, or Copr.) Year, and Name. If the notice does not
appear anywhere in the publication, no registration can be made. The Deposit
must show the photograph as it actually appeared in firs publication.
If the notice is present somewhere in the publication,
you can make a group or individual registration of the work. The submission
guidelines are like the the one described
above, except that you must also provide the proof of copyright notice,
and the Deposit must show the photograph as it was first published.
A College Yearbook, from 1983.
Published Prior to January 1, 1978
This is very similar to the Work
Published Between 1978 and 1989, with the following exceptions. The
copyright notice only has to read Copyright (or ©, or Copr.) Name
of Copyright Holder, and did not have to have a year date. Additionally,
the Copyright notice needed to be adjacent to the photograph, or specifically
enumerated somewhere in the publication.
Until June 30th, the cost for any submission,
whether group or individual, is $30. You can add the cost of
preparation of the deposit to this, as well as the cost of delivery.
For an active photographer, this could be several thousand dollars
a year. We believe that this is a very small price to pay, considering
the value that Copyright Registration brings.
Copyright Registration provides benefits
for at least the next 70 years. And registration protects you
against more than a sneaky third party using your image surreptitiously.
If a client refuses to pay for images that they have used, a
proper registration is perhaps your most important tool to enforce
compliance with your contractual terms.
Remember, the Bettman Archive, which sold
for millions of dollars to Corbis, was made up of images that
were fished out of dumpsters behind publishing houses. It is
very hard to predict what images will have value 50 years from
Just because a work is accepted by the Library of Congress,
it does not mean that the copyright registration cannot be challenged
in court. In fact, if a significant amount of money is on the line, expect
there to be a challenge. Any falsification or factual error in the registration
could potentially invalidate the registration.
You must expect that the defendant in a copyright case
will look hard at all information on the form, including the publication
dates. Make sure that you are registering the earliest possible publication
of the photo.
Get Me to
The LOC on Time
The LOC is the Library of Congress, and those of you
who live in the Capitol Region have an edge here. Copyright Protection
does not begin until the Copyright Office receives your submission and
approves it. In the case of short-turn-around time publications like newspapers
or weeklies, a matter of days can make the difference between a work being
unpublished or being published. This difference could invalidate a copyright
The recent anthrax scare has delayed the delivery of
mail to Federal Buildings. We strongly suggest that you send your submission
in via the following methods: Messenger, assistant, Private Carrier (Fedex,
UPS, Airborne, etc.)
Submissions should be addressed to:
US Copyright Office Library of Congress
101 Independence Ave. Southeast
Washington DC 20559
Hand Caries should be taken to Library Madison Room
Credits and Errata
This tutorial was prepared by Peter Krogh with the help of the good people of the United States Copyright Office. This is not intended as legal advise, and no legal claims are made as to its accuracy. If you think you have found a mistake, or would like to add information to any part of it, please contact Peter
Krogh at Kroghphoto@aol.com.
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