You must register your photographs with the U. S. Copyright Office in order to file a copyright lawsuit in federal court and to possibly be eligible for statutory damages, court costs, and legal fees. Registration can be done by mail or online at eco.copyright.gov. This chapter of Photo Repo covers the actual online registration process for registering groups of published or unpublished photographs. Topics include:
- Registration Preparation
- Requirements to Register a Group of Photographs
- Step-by-Step Registration Process
- Creating the Required Title List
CHAPTER EXCERPT | ON RECEIVING YOUR COPYRIGHT CERTIFICATE OF REGISTRATION…
Once your application is reviewed and approved, the Copyright Office will mail you a Certificate of Registration. This process takes anywhere from one to seven months for online applications (longer for applications sent by mail), with the average being four months. However, the quoted average takes into account all types of applications, including those delayed due to registration mistakes. Of the nearly two dozen applications I have submitted, I have received certificates in as little as two weeks, and all within two months.
An online application is not complete until the Copyright Office receives the supporting photo files or physical prints of the photographs. It is typical to upload the files at the same time you submit your application, but you do have up to five additional days to do so. You can also send the photos by mail (on a disc or prints). In either case, the effective date of registration that will be stated on your Certificate of Registration is the day the completed application is received, not the day the Copyright Office approves the application.
A copy of the Certificate of Registration is an important part of your demand letter. Therefore, if you submit your copyright application today and find a violation tomorrow, do not send the letter until you receive your certificate. As long as you properly document the infringement (see Chapter 6), you have a valid claim even if the photo has been removed by the time you get your certificate and send your demand letter.
CHAPTER EXCERPT | ON THE AUTHOR FORM AND A WORK MADE FOR HIRE…
The Author page allows you to enter information about the author: the actual photographer or the employer of a photographer who took the photos within the scope of employment, a situation known as a “work made for hire.” Work done by most contractors, such as a wedding photographer, is not a work made for hire. In fact, the only way you can be the author of photographs made by a non-employee is if there is a written agreement signed by both parties stating that the job is a work made for hire, and the photographs are commissioned for use as follows (per §101 of Title 17):
as a contribution to a collective work (a work, such as a periodical, anthology, or encyclopedia, in which a number of contributions, constituting separate and independent works in themselves, are assembled into a collective whole)
as part of a motion picture or other audiovisual work
as a supplementary work (a work prepared for publication as a secondary adjunct to a work by another author for the purpose of introducing, concluding, illustrating, explaining, revising, commenting upon, or assisting in the use of the other work, such as forewords, afterwords, pictorial illustrations, maps, charts, tables, editorial notes, musical arrangements, answer material for tests, bibliographies, appendixes, and indexes)
as a compilation (a work formed by the collection and assembling of preexisting material or data that are selected, coordinated, or arranged in such a way that the resulting work as a whole constitutes an original work of authorship)
as an instructional text (a literary, pictorial, or graphic work prepared for publication and with the purpose of use in systematic instructional activities)
as a test
as answer material for a test
as an atlas
A valid work made for hire must also consist of content created specifically for the new project, not content created previously for another project and reused in the new project.
CHAPTER EXCERPT | ON REGISTERING ANONYMOUSLY OR UNDER A PSEUDONYM…
You can also register your photographs anonymously or under a pseudonym. However, if your real name appears on a copy of the work (e. g. on a copyright notice), you cannot use these registration options. Furthermore, if the author is an organization, anonymous and pseudonymous registrations are not allowed.
If you choose to register under a pseudonym, you have two choices. One, you can choose to use your pseudonym on your published works but use your real name for the Copyright Office’s public record (this makes it possible for someone to find out your real name). To do this, check the Pseudonymous box and enter your pseudonym in the Pseudonym text area. Also fill in the First Name and Last Name fields. In this situation, copyright protection lasts for the author’s life plus 70 years.
The second option is to use your pseudonym on your published works and keep your real name out of the public record. To do this, fill in the pseudonym information but leave the First Name and Last Name fields blank. In this case, copyright protection lasts for 95 years from the publication date, or 120 years from the creation date if the work is not published.
Registering anonymously works the same way. Check Anonymous and fill in the name fields to have your real name in the public record, or leave the name fields blank to keep your name out of the public record. Use “© 2019 Anonymous” for the copyright notice on your photographs.