When registering a copyright for a published work, each must be registered individually with some exceptions. For unpublished works, there is a bit more flexibility. First, though, to recognize when these exceptions are applicable, copyright holders must understand the difference between a published and unpublished work.
Copyright law defines “publication” as the distribution of copies of a work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership or by rental, lease, or lending.
Offering to distribute copies to a group of people for purposes of further distribution or display is also considered publication. However, a public display does not in itself constitute publication. Art that exists in only one copy, such as a painting, is not regarded as published when that painting is sold or offered for sale. It is when there are multiple reproductions offered for distribution that the work is considered published. Posting the image to a website is also generally considered published.
Copyright Published vs. Unpublished Works
If a creative work is published, then each work must be uploaded individually and the $35 fee paid for each. (The preferred way to register is to use the eCo system online at copyright.gov; for a detailed tutorial, click here). One exception is for published photographs (this does not include photographs of other art, just the photographs themselves).
by Chris Reed
A single registration can be made for a group of published photographs if all the following conditions are met.
- The same photographer took all the photographs
- All the photographs were first published in the same calendar year.
- All the photographs have the same copyright claimant(s).
The limit is 750 photos per registration. Be sure that unpublished and published images are not combined in the same registration. Copyright holders can upload the images using a zip file, they do not have to be uploaded individually. However, be sure to use a naming convention that makes the images recognizable since the certificate from the copyright office does not include the images, only the names. It is helpful to create a contact sheet with the names of each photo. When the registration certificate is received via mail, attach the contact sheet so that they cannot be separated.
The other exception is for unpublished works. A group of unpublished works can be registered as a collection if all the following conditions are met.
- The elements of the collection are assembled in an orderly form.
- The combined elements bear a single title identifying the collection as a whole.
- The copyright claimant or claimants for each element in the collection are the same.
- All the elements are by the same author or, if they are by different authors, at least one author has contributed copyrightable authorship to each element.
Note that individual image titles are not listed, only the title of the collection
There is no time limit here. This may be a good idea for photographers who have thousands of unused photos or musicians with unpublished songs. Of course, one has to decide whether unpublished works are worth copyrighting at all since, being unpublished, the public does not see them. However, incidents such as stolen computers do occur and so photos, old scripts or unused songs on the hard drive may end up in the hands of people who choose to exploit them.
One final suggestion for those artists that may need to upload many images; use book creator software to make a PDF photo book. Then, rather than uploading a zip file, just upload the PDF. Most book software will allow the author to use the filename as the name of the image. Assuming all the requirements are satisfied, the book and all the images inside will be registered. Just be sure that for the unpublished works’ PDF book, the software doesn’t automatically publish the book to the Internet.
If you have any other suggestions or ways that you have made the process easier, please post them in the comments section below. Please post this article to your social media if you found it interesting.
Magnificent web site. Plenty of helpful information here.
I am sending it to a few pals ans additionally sharing in delicious.
And of course, thank you in your effort!
Thank you. I appreciate that.
I have learn several good stuff here. Certainly price bookmarking for revisiting.
I wonder how much attempt you put to create the sort of magnificent informative web site.
More time than I ever thought. About 4 hours per article and countless hours in setup, speed and search engine optimization. A labor of love as they say.
“The limit is 750 photos per registration.”
This caught me by surprise. Can you point to the reg that stipulates this limit?
You can find it here in the Copyright Office Circular or in the regulation here http://copyright.gov/title37/202/37cfr202-3.html
Appreciating the time and effort you put into your blog and in depth information you offer.
It’s good to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the
same outdated rehashed information. Fantastic read! I’ve saved your site and I’m adding your RSS feeds to my Google account.
who can I get to help me do something like this cause it sounds complicated?
Thank you for a great resource! I have a question regarding what qualifies as “publication” of an image. I am a UK-based photographer wishing to register my images with the US Copyright Office. As a member of my local camera club, I have submitted some of my images to club competitions by uploading them to a password-protected members-only area of the club website. These images are shown to club members at scheduled meetings and are customarily afterwards uploaded to a publicly accessible area of the club’s website. I personally have opted not have my images posted on the club’s website — do these images then count as “unpublished”? Our club also organises an annual exhibition of images by club members at a local gallery which is meant to showcase and promote the club’s activities. Does taking part in such an exhibition count as publication of any prints submitted if they are not offered for sale?
If I have prints of some of my original painting and collage works for sale ..on Etsy or any other venue and I want to get my works copyrighted to protect them.. do I have to pay $35.00 to register each one..or can I batch them together and only pay one price of $35.00 to get them copywritten , if I name them and submit them all at the same time ? I am confused by the wording of the law. Can you please clarify so I can get my works submitted soon? Thanks in advance.
Hi Anna, that depends on whether the works are photographic or paintings. Paintings must be registered one by one, whereas you can register a batch of photographs. Hope that helps.
Does the same apply if one is an artist? Meaning: Is it possible to register multiple published works of art (paintings etc) for one filing fee as photographers are able to if they too meet all 3 requirements?
Hi Donna, unfortunately painters are required to submit works like paintings one-by-one, and pay the filing fee for each individual work. Hope that helps.
understand that physical paintings have to be registered one by one, but what about completely digital artwork?
With regard to the PDF book idea, does the book have to be an entity on its own that is published, or an “official work” in some way in order to give the same protections to the images as if you had uploaded and paid for each individually?
I’m amazed, I have to admit. Rarely do I come across a
blog that’s both equally educative and engaging, and without a
doubt, you have hit the nail on the head.
The issue is something not enough folks are speaking intelligently about.
Now i’m very happy I came across this during my
search for something relating to this.