You Registered Your Copy, Right?

By Gene McCullagh
October 13, 2011

As photographers we can easily fall into the deep well of creative pursuits and forget about the practical side to creating images. While the rights to your image are set the moment you press the shutter release, proving that is another matter. And that is where the value of registering your copyright becomes important.

Most, if not all, countries have some sort of creative protections in place. I will look at this from the U.S. perspective so please investigate your country's copyright laws and procedures if you are not in the U.S..

Surprisingly, the Copyright Office has become rather modern and has established a fully online method for registering your copyright! It's still a government designed system but at least it is electronic! You can get more information at the United States Copyright Office's website. It is here that you can fill out all the necessary information to register your copyright. Part of that process entails uploading the images you are registering.

Currently the cost to register is $35.00. However, you can upload many many images for the fee! So there's no excuse now. If you upload 700 images then it's only costing you 5¢ per image. Now that's a deal! For a nice walkthrough the process of filling out the forms take a look at the American Society of Media Photographers online submission tutorial.

To make the upload process easier you can use Lightroom to create the needed image assets to include with your submission. Start by selecting the images you want to include in the registration. Make sure that your information is included for these files.

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The two important areas are (1) the Contact section and (2) the Copyright section. You may want to set up a metadata preset so you can add this information during import.

The next step is to export these images. Setting up an export present will save you time later.

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My recommendations are that you choose a folder on export (1) but you could set up a regular folder and empty it after the submission process. Whatever seems easier to you. You won't need these exported images after the submission is completed. Under File Settings choose JPEG and sRGB. The quality setting can be anywhere from 50 to 100. I find 70 is a good balance between size and quality.

Now set the Image Sizing to 600 pixels on the long edge with a resolution of 72 ppi. These images don't need to be large or print quality. You merely have to submit images with sufficient detail to be recognizable and identifiable. You can produce the full sized image should you ever need to defend your copyright in court. Here's an example...

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Since a ZIP file is an acceptable filetype for submission we are going to zip up all of these images into one file. So in the Post-Processing section either show the results in the Finder (Explorer in Windows) or point it to your compression software if it will take a group of files as input and churn out a ZIP file. I've chosen to send it off to StuffIt for processing.

So when you're done processing you should have a ZIP file ready for upload.

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The important aspect is the size of this file. The copyright process will only allow you 30 minutes of upload time per submission. This will vary depending on your connection speeds. You can check by using any number of upload time calculators. One quick and easy calculator can be found at So for this example file we get these results...

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As long as I have at least a 128K connection I should be just fine!

Once the ZIP file has been uploaded I keep the ZIP and delete the individual files. After verification of copyright registration arrives I delete the ZIP file. After all, my originals are safely managed in Lightroom.

Now get going and register your copyright. You may never have a need to press the issue but if you do registration will make all the difference and may even keep you out of court altogether. When confronted with a registered copyright the offend may be quick to settle.

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