What You Need To Know About Copyrighting Your Photos

Copyright laws protect the rights of creators, but they’re not always easy to understand. This article will walk you through what you need to know about copyrighting your photos and how it can help keep your images safe from being used without permission or payment.

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What Is Copyright?

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Copyright is a form of protection grounded in the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976 for original works of authorship, including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other types of intellectual works.

The copyright law generally gives the owner (called the “author” or “copyright holder”) exclusive rights to use and sell copies of the work. The law provides for penalties against anyone who infringes copyright. These include fines and imprisonment.

Copyright does not protect an idea, only the way that it is expressed. Copyright applies to both published and unpublished works. However, registration is a condition for obtaining certain remedies under the law. For example, if you want to bring a lawsuit against someone else for infringing your copyright, you must first register with the US Copyright Office (unless you live in one of those countries where treaty obligations require protection as soon as work is created). That makes sense because without knowing about something, you can’t do anything about it!

When Do I Need To Register?

Before “publishing” – meaning before sharing or selling any images online – we recommend registering all photos with the U.S. Copyrights Office ($55 per photo), regardless of whether they’re published.

You need to register before you can file a lawsuit for infringement, but there are other reasons why it makes sense too:

– You will get an official certificate (a “Registration”) which is great if you ever want to prove in court that the photos belong to you; and

– It starts the clock on running your time limit for filing lawsuits against infringers. If you wait longer than three months after the first publication without registering, then that period gets cut off (meaning no more protection or legal options). For this reason, we recommend photographers even consider submitting their work during development so copyright protections begin immediately! Registering online takes about 30 minutes per photo with USPS Priority Mail shipping time of two to three days.

It’s also possible to file your registration in person at the Copyright Office in Washington, DC; however, it will take longer (up to six months) and you must do this before an infringement occurs or within three months after first publication.

What If I Don’t Register? Does That Mean My Photos Are Free To Use?

No! There are many reasons why creators should register their work even if they choose not to publish them immediately. For example:

– Registration makes a public record that the photos were created by you which is necessary for filing certain types of lawsuits against infringers who use work without knowing they weren’t properly licensed.

– You can’t get statutory damages or attorney’s fees under copyright law if you don’t register before an infringement occurs (although there are other laws that may allow recovery without registration).

– If registering takes too long, it is possible to send a “pre-registration application” of the work in question directly to the US Copyright Office which will at least start your time running for filing lawsuits against infringers. There are some downsides here though: only certain types of images qualify; pre-registering means giving uprights on all future versions once you actually do register later, and pre-registering doesn’t protect anyone but yourself from liability while any legal action plays out. So again, the best advice is to register all your work!

What Type of Work Do You Need To Register?

Photos are one type of “work” under copyright law. There are many others including writings, works of art, sound recordings, and films/videos. As long as the photo was created by you (not someone else or a photograph that contains some other copyrighted element), then it qualifies for registration.

How Can I Know If Someone Has Infringed My Copyright?

If someone has copied any part of your photos without permission–whether they’ve used them for free on their website or sold prints containing them–they have infringed on your rights under copyright law if:

– The original elements in the photo are protected by copyright (we’ll talk about what this means in a minute);

– They copied those elements; and

– Their use of the photo doesn’t fall into any exceptions to infringement like if it was used for news reporting, and educational purpose or fair use. Copyright holders can file lawsuits against infringers under federal law which allows courts to award damages up to $150,000 per image plus attorney’s fees! You can also register your photos with one or more stock photography agencies who will help protect your work from unauthorized usage online. We recommend researching individual agency policies before joining since some require registration while others do not. Our policy is that you don’t need registration unless they ask for proof otherwise because we know how important it is for people to keep their work alive and available (iStockphoto, etc).

What Type of Photo Protections Do I Need To Use?

If your photo was taken with a digital camera or created on a computer you have many options. As long as the original elements in the photo are protected by copyright law–which basically means they can stand alone without any other source required–you should consider some form of protection if possible since infringements on photos happen all too often online especially on stock photography sites where anyone can buy them once they’re uploaded. In this case, registration will be more effective than watermarking but both add visual impact which isn’t necessarily bad unless you want to avoid making your work look like a stamp. Both registration and watermarking will help deter casual infringement but if someone is determined, you can’t stop them from using your work without permission!

How Can I Register My Photos?

There are many options for registering photos depending on whether they were taken with film or digital cameras as well as how much time and money you want to spend doing so:

– Copyright Office – the official copyright website where users pay $35 per application (as of January 2018) plus an additional $160 fee if filing electronically;

– The U.S. Copyright Office has announced that it plans to phase out its eCO system in favor of a new online platform called electronic Copyright Management System which should be available by 2020 although options for registering will be more limited.

– Creativity – a paid online service that allows users to register up to five images at one time and offers other helpful services like automatic copyrighting from within Lightroom, image verification through their AI system, etc.;

– Copyright registrations can also be done by mail although this takes longer (up to six months) since the U.S. Postal Service is no longer an official option due to budget cuts;

– IPTC – a free resource that everyone should use whether you’re planning on sending your photos off to stock agencies or not! It serves as a centralized database where information about your work can be stored along with watermarks if desired plus it’s compatible with many photo editing programs. You can also use it to store your copyright information so photo agencies will have access when they ask for proof of ownership;

– Adobe – a paid service through Adobe that allows users to protect their photos up to 300MB in size with watermarks and other features like tracking usage, sharing images etc.

What Role Does Watermarking Play in Copyrighting your Photos?

The watermarking of a photo serves as an identifier for the copyright holder. This is not always necessary with your name in the metadata, but it is a good practice to use. Your copyright should show up in big letters with your company’s website in smaller print included on the watermark.

It is important to ensure that the work you put into your photos will be protected and respected. The easiest way to do this is by using watermarks everywhere you publish them. Copyrighting your photos does not require any fancy legal jargon or expensive lawyer fees. It can also help you get more followers and likes on social media!

What Should You Do If Someone Steals Your Photograph?

If someone steals your photo, there are a few things you should try to do:

-Contact the person and let them know that they’re not authorized to use your photo and ask for its immediate removal. If the person refuses, send them a copyright infringement letter (keep reading for more info on what that is).

-Try filing a DMCA takedown notice with the website hosting the content under which you believe violates your copyright. This is somewhat more complex than sending an email and will require some research, but it can be successful if done right. Google “DMCA takedown notice” if you’re interested in how this works.

-Consider hiring a lawyer—although expensive, this could be necessary for major violations of copyright law by major websites and companies.

-File a copyright lawsuit against the person who does not comply with your requests for removal of content—this is only recommended as a last resort since it could be costly to you both financially and emotionally. You might win (and they will lose), but you’ll also have to go through all kinds of legal procedures that can take months or even years before anything is resolved!


Copyright infringement is on the rise, and if you want to protect your work, it’s important that you understand what copyright means. If you’re not really sure about how this works or whether or not your photos are at risk of being infringed upon by others without credit given, please read on for some helpful tips! This article will provide information about copyright law in general as well as specific steps to take when posting images online so they can’t be used elsewhere. We hope these guidelines help ensure that no one steals from those who worked hard to create their own content – you deserve all the recognition possible for your creativity!