Updated July 13, 2020:

Here are a few things to know about copyrighting an image.

U.S. copyright law protects all original expressions, including images such as photographs, paintings, drawings and even computer graphics. Most people believe that you need to do something special to obtain a copyright for an image, but this is not the case. 

Copyright protection begins the moment you capture an image in tangible form, whether this is on paper, on a canvas, or in a computer file. However, there are specific advantages to registering your copyright with the government.

The first and biggest advantage to registering a copyright for your image(s) with the United States is the monetary value of damages if you sue someone for infringement. Attorneys fees and statutory damages are available only to people who have registered a copyright for their image.

Additionally, a person has the right to sue someone in federal court if you have a registered copyright.

Lastly, an official registration will put the world on constructive notice of your copyright and typically registered copyrights never lose an infringement lawsuit.

You can file an application to register your copyright either online via the U.S. Copyright Office’s website or by mailing a paper application. The Copyright Office will then issue a certificate of registration once it receives your completed application along with the filing fees and copies of the image. A single application can also have multiple images attached to it that you wish to copyright.

Before filing a lawsuit, one should consult an experienced copyright attorney, as there are several defenses to taking someone’s copyrighted image. With the growing age of the Internet, the government has attempted to balance the interests of encouraging the free flow of ideas, while still rewarding the creators of new art.

Need help copyrighting an image?

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