December 28, 2018

Why (and How) You Should Copyright Your Photos

Copyright Your Photos

Many say a picture is worth a thousand words, however, it may be worth a lot more. If you have images displayed on websites and in other places you may want to consider getting registering them for copyright. It’s not uncommon for people to copy images and use them for their own purposes. This is why it is in your best interest to protect your images from being used without your permission.

What is Copyright?

The minute the shutter flashes as you take a picture, your image is copyrighted. Copyright provides you with exclusive rights to an image. This means that you have the right to do anything you want with your image.

You can reproduce it, create derivative works, and distribute and display copies of your image in public.

The U.S. Copyright Office

Images that will be used for professional purposes should be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office as an extra layer of protection. This means that you can pursue statutory damages if your images are used without your permission.


If you choose not to register your images with the copyright office, you are only entitled to actual damages. However, this may be enough if your images aren’t for professional use. It’s important to register your images with the copyright office before infringement or no more than three months after the unauthorized publication of your images.

How to Register Your Copyright

The copyright process is fairly simple. All the steps can be completed by visiting The entire copyright process can be achieved with a few simple steps. Go to

1. Click Register a Copyright
2. Specify that the Copyright is for an image
3. Click the photo registration link
4. Create a user account by clicking register a claim
5. Answer three questions and select Type of work to register and Work of the Visual Arts
6. Complete the form and pay the $35 application fee (single image)

Registering your images can be a beneficial step for your professional images. Even free stock photos are registered for copyright for the express purpose of protecting them from infringement. If your images aren’t being used for professional purposes you may not need to register them. Instead, if you find your images are being used without your permission it may be effective to simply contact the owner of the website for attribution and discuss the best course of action.

Enforcing a Copyright Claim

If you find that your images are being used without your consent you can file a copyright infringement lawsuit. You will need to get a lawyer to do this, however. You can also have your lawyer write up a cease-and-desist letter, or do it yourself.


If you find that your images are being used by a big publication without your permission, you can invoice them. What you choose to do to protect your images should be based on how they will be used as well as your personal preferences.


If you decide that you’d rather forgo registering for copyright of your images, you might consider making a simple watermark and placing it across your images. You can simply use the watermark symbol and your name and place it on your images. However, it’s important that the watermark is placed on your images in a position that makes it difficult to crop the watermark out.

The minute the Shutter flashes your images are copyrighted. However, you may want to register and copyright your images to secure a stronger layer of protection from infringement. If your images are professional, registering them is a smart way to collect statutory damages if they are used without your consent. If you fail to do this, you can only collect actual damages. However, this may be enough if your images aren’t going to be widely distributed or used for professional purposes.

Esther Alexander

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