Whether it’s a painting, a poem or a piece of literature, protecting something that you have lovingly written or created yourself is understandably important. The risk of sharing your creations online and having someone use them without paying you isn’t fair or just but, without copyrighting your work, you may have no say legally against someone who has stolen your work. Everything is online nowadays, and people seem to have access to everything. You want to be able to share a photo or fine art drawing with your friends on social media without seeing it pop up on another site or online magazine and receiving no credit or compensation. You simply have to copyright your work!
1. What Does the Law Say?
In actual fact, everything you create yourself is automatically copyrighted and cannot be copied, printed or duplicated by anyone else. Unfortunately, however, this does not stop people from doing so, and it may be difficult to prove that the piece of work was originally created by you in a court of law, not to mention the time and hassle of going about suing someone. It’s sometimes best to protect your work in some way so that you can easily verify a particular piece is yours if needed, especially if your design could be used by others or if it potentially is worth a lot of money.
2. What Options Do You Have?
Many people who have websites showing off their photographs or paintings deter potential artwork thieves by compressing the images to low quality versions that only look good when very small. You can also remove the right-click function when clicking on images meaning there is no way to copy and save them. Alternatively, you could add a watermark over the top of your artwork, or just add your name and the copyright symbol at the bottom of the artwork to remind people that the piece belongs to you.
3. Going Down the Official Route
If you want a more substantial claim on your work that will allow you to be easily compensated for another person or company selling your stuff, you can apply to the US Copyright Office’s eCO Registration System. You’ll need to register with an email address, fill out a two-page application form, pay a $20 fee, and submit your work electronically. You can group your work together so, for instance, if you have a collection of 50 photographs, you can register them together and do not need to pay $20 for each one.
For most people, using these methods to deter others from using your artwork including adding watermarks, compressing the image, and so on, is sufficient enough. Watermarks can be (but not easily) removed, and being reminded that a piece of work is copyrighted will usually be enough. However, if you have some kind of design that could be used for printing T-shirts and other similar types of merchandise, it may be wise to apply to the US Copyright Office. These kinds of businesses can generate large amounts of profit, and if money is being made from your design without your permission, it means you can sue and receive any cash that is rightfully yours.