How to Register Your Work With the Copyright Office – Filling Out the Forms

Oh boy… seems like it’s taken awhile to get here. I understand all too well why most people never bother to register their work. It’s a hassle figuring out how exactly to do it. Despite all the information that’s out there on copyright law in general, there’s nothing on how to actually go about registering your work. Until now. Right here. Here we go!

First I need to clear something up. Published images from an entire year can be registered on one form. However, you must specify the date on which the work the work was first published. That means if you published a selection of your images to Facebook on one date and then put the rest of the work on a website for online ordering on another, you need to separate out the two sets of work and list separate first publish dates for both. Yeah, it’s a pain but there’s nothing we can do about that.

The only exception is for work that was published within the past three months. That’s the work we’re going to focus on today. (In the next post, I’ll talk about work from previous years.) Let me be clear here – It’s easiest to register your published work every three months. Stick to this schedule. Not only does it insure that your work is protected, it also is the quickest, easiest route to registering your images.

To register your images, you’ll need to fill out Copyright Form VA which can be downloaded here. Once you click on the link, you’ll receive a two page PDF form plus instructions that you can fill out on the computer.

Steps for Bulk Registration of Images Published in the Past Three Months

Once you’ve got the form opened on your computer, you’ll want to start with Section 1.

1) You can title the work whatever you want. I chose to title it according to what date range I’m registering. Thus “Q1 2012” is the title I chose for the first quarter of 2012.

2) NATURE OF THIS WORK is “Photographs

3) If you’re registering a group of images that were published on different dates, such as multiple weddings and blog posts, you’ll need to write on the second line where it says PREVIOUS OR ALTERNATIVE TITLES “Group Registration/Published Photos – Approx XXX photos.

Section Two is pretty straightforward.

1) Check “No” for WORK MADE FOR HIRE.

2) List either your country of citizenship or country where you live

3) Check “No” if you published the work under your real name

4) Under NATURE OF AUTHORSHIP check “Photograph”

It’s not necessary to fill in your date of birth. Unless you have a co-author to the work, don’t fill out Section B

Section 3

1) List the year you completed the work. Generally, but not always, the same as year the work was created.

2) DATE OF PUBLICATION When registering images published at different times, list the range of dates when your images where published. This range of dates must be within three months of the date that the copyright office will receive the completed registration. This translates to about 80 days worth of published work. You must also add the country in which the images were published.

Section 4 is pretty straightforward. Just list your name and address.

Sections 5 and 6 are typically left blank.

Sections 7 and 8 ask for your contact information and signature. Be sure to sign before you send in the form.

Section 9: Provide your mailing address one last time so that the Copyright Office can mail your registration certificate back to you.

Once you’ve filled out the form, all that’s left to do is write a check for $65 to the US Copyright Office, put the form and disk with your burned images into an envelope and then drop the envelope in the mail.

Congratulations! You’ve done it! Now mark your calendar to repeat the process in about ten weeks or so.


About johnmireles

Photographer, writer, thinker, climber, outrigger canoeist, bad guitar player and even worse singer.
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3 Responses to How to Register Your Work With the Copyright Office – Filling Out the Forms

  1. Ron Crain says:

    John, thanks for the prodding.
    Do you have any hints as to how a husband / wife team should submit the form? Should we put both names in step 2 or should we register separately?

  2. Scott Lightner says:

    Helpful article, John. Keep in mind, posting pictures on FB may NOT be considered “publication”:

    What is publication?
    Publication has a technical meaning in copyright law. According to the statute, “Publication is the distribution of copies or phonorecords of a work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending. The offering to distribute copies or phonorecords to a group of persons for purposes of further distribution, public performance, or public display constitutes publication. A public performance or display of a work does not of itself constitute publication.” Generally, publication occurs on the date on which copies of the work are first made available to the public. For further information see Circular 1, Copyright Basics, section “Publication.”

  3. Joe Gunawan says:

    Love this! Great job John!

    – Joe Gunawan |

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