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In the US and abroad, artists worldwide lose millions of dollars each year due to art theft. Let's face it, folks, in this day of high-end computers and printers, the ability to "steal" your artwork is just a right-click away. What can you as an Artist do to protect your work? Simple; REGISTER YOUR COPYRIGHT. Yes, your work is copyrighted the moment you sign your name to it, morally, but unless you register your copyright in Washington, if you have to file an infringement suit, you may and more than likely will have to spend thousand of dollars proving it was, in fact, your work.

I have personally had a very large sum of my work copyrighted thru the Federal Copyright Registration process, and I ran across these tidbits of wisdom while learning how to copyright my own work. I wanted to share the importance of getting your work copyrighted (through the U.S. Copyright Office) and some information on the process of copyrighting your work and to all or anyone whom might be interested in information on copyrighting their art originals, prints from originals, digital images, poems, songs, etc.

By moral laws, as stated previously, the copyright is SUPPOSED to stay with the Artist, but in a court of law, not having a Registered Federal Copyright on your work can turn into a nightmare.

It is very understandable why some artists, after looking at these forms for the first time, would not even try to fill one out on their own, or would even be able to figure out which one to use. Hopefully this article will help you better understand the importance of this process, and make it easier for you to understand how to go about registering your work.

The process to get a Federal Copyright for your work only costs $30.00. The fee is sent by you to the Library of Congress in Washington via money order, along with your registration form. You can copyright anywhere from one original or digital image to several hundred for that one time $30.00 fee. This same rule holds true for digital images created by computer, digital images from photographs, songs, poems, short stories, novels, etc.

Unless you have a lot of money for attorney fees, you would more than likely never win a copyright infringement suit if someone were to steal your work, or use it without your permission. But if you have it copyrighted, you wouldn't have to worry about that kind of loss, for it would be registered in Washington, which would then make it a "Federal Copyright" and it's unlikely one would want to take a chance on having felony charges filed against them for trying to steal artwork that has a Federal Copyright on it.

Also, if your work isn't copyrighted in Washington and someone tries to use it without your permission, by making prints, etc, before you could take them to court on an infringement suit, you would have to file for a 'Previously Published Copyright' which can run into the thousands of dollars, before you could even hire a lawyer for several thousands of dollars more. Once images have been sold to the public, that turns your work into "Previously Published Work."  In other words, it was put in the public's hands before a copyright was filed in Washington. It is obviously cheaper to pay the $30.00 fee.

As I said previously, you can copyright one at a time for $30.00 each, or stockpile them and copyright 10 or 20, or up to several hundreds at one time for that same $30.00. But you should avoid selling them before you send a collection in to be copyrighted. The copyright will cover any changes that you make to each image in the future, as long as the changes aren't so drastic that you can't easily recognize it as the same image anymore. Your copyright lasts up to 70 years after you are deceased for your family's sake; they can even renew the copyright once its time has lapsed.

There ARE 2 exceptions for "multiple" copyrights, or copyrighting several at one time for one fee of $30.00; #1. If you want to copyright an image of an original which you have already sold, you will have to send it in individually, for $30.00, unless you are in the midst an infringement suit; then it could run into the very least several hundred or even thousands of dollars for expedition charges, etc. # 2. If you want to file a copyright for something which you and another party collaborated on, or created an image as a joint effort, both parties painting, etc. In this case, you would have to file a single copyright for $30.00 for that one image or original.

Copyright forms are available online directly from the U.S. Copyright Office. From here, simply select which one would pertain to your type of art. Form VA would be for artwork: originals, prints, etc. (This covers all 2 & 3 dimensional work.) Form TX would be for non-dramatic literary works: poems, novels, stories, etc. Form PA would be for performing arts: songs, musical creations, etc. Any one of these forms only average 8 questions; most of those are about your name and address, the name or title of your creation, when it was created, etc, but there are one or two questions that may or will not pertain to you, and you certainly don't want to write anything in those spaces.

If you are copyrighting a "collection" (or more than one work at a time) you simply need to make up a name for your collection. You would not have to name or title each individual item, or list them on an attachment sheet with the form, unless you wanted to. But it probably would be best to at least give each one a name, even if you only named them 'untitled #1', untitled #2, etc. even if you don't list them on an attachment sheet.

Once you fill out the form, all that you would need to do is take pictures of each one of your originals or creations that you want to copyright, and scan the pictures into your computer. I personally have a little HP camera that I use to take pics of my artwork that are too big to scan, so all I have to do is stick the little card into my printer, and the images are uploaded to my computer (it's kinda neat) Once they are uploaded, you save them all on a CD. To my knowledge, they will not accept DVD's. You can also print the pictures on cardstock or photo paper, but definitely not on copy paper. Once this is done, simply include these materials along with the registration form and money order.

Once you have mailed all this thru Registered Mail at your local Post Office (so that you will have a receipt; be sure and keep it in a safe place) you will then receive an envelope via Registered mail containing a copy of your Registered Federal Copyright. Then the process will be finished.

If you are doing a '"Series" of works, the first one that you sent in would be Copyrighted in the normal manner, but additional ones would be titled as a "Contribution to _________" ( in the blank, you would put the title of the previous work that has already been sent in, that this new work is a "Series" of ).

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