Notes on Registering Images with the Copyright Office

I’m still working away at sharing the most streamlined method for registering images. The unfortunate reality is that copyright rules were created for a world where film was shot and then only select image were submitted to a newspaper or magazine for publication. B ecause this method of copyright registration is so reliant upon date of publication, the sad fact of the matter is that it makes registration highly problematic in this current world of social media and the web.

In the old days of just over ten years ago, a wedding or portrait photographer’s work was rarely published. For the most part, the work was hardly seen beyond a small circle of friends and family. Copyright registration would have been easy since all the images could be registered as unpublished. In reality, however there was little need for registration since infringement wasn’t very likely.

Times could hardly be more different for wedding and portrait photographers now. They’ve gone from never seeing their work published to having all of their work published all the time – even more so than many magazine and commercial photographers. The challenge for wedding and portrait photographers seeking to register their work is that the process quickly becomes tricky and cumbersome due to the many differing dates of publication for any given batch of work.

Take images from a wedding: images may be posted to Facebook within a day or so. Within a few days, more images may be published to a blog. Then in a couple of weeks, the full edited take is published to a website for online ordering. Because copyright rules dictate that images must be registered according to the date of first publication, that means the photographer must keep track of what image was published when, segregate the images according to published date on a disk and then fill out form accordingly.

Multiply that by 25 to 35 weddings plus portrait shoots plus engagement shoots and you’ve got the makings of a part-time job. There does appear to be an exemption. Here’s a quote from the appropriate copyright form:

All published within 3 months of registration:
If each photograph in a group is first published within 3 months before the date on which an acceptable application, deposit, and fee are received in the Copyright Office, you may give the range of publication dates, (e.g.: February 15–April 5, 2001) in space 3b of the application without giving publication dates on the deposited images or on a Form GR⁄PPh⁄CON.

Basically, you can specify a range of dates so long as the images were published within the previous three months of the date that your application arrives at the Copyright Office. This is all the more incentive to publish images on a regular basis.

I’ll have more details on forms and whatnot once I do a little more digging.


About johnmireles

Photographer, writer, thinker, climber, outrigger canoeist, bad guitar player and even worse singer.
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