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Registering Your Copyright

Registering Your Copyright for Your Photographs: Common Questions

Where Do I Register?

To register for your federal copyright, you must submit information to the US Copyright Office. You can register your photographs by accessing online registration which is located on Office’s website. You may also register by printing and following the instructions on the form, which is also located on the website. The website for the US Copyright office is

Why Do I Have to Register My Photographs?

Your copyright does exist from the moment you take a picture. It is automatic. Why register it with the US Copyright Office? Registering helps if you want to file a copyright infringement lawsuit in federal court. If you register prior to the alleged infringement or within three months after your work is published, you might be able to collect statutory damages. Statutory damages can be significant, up to $150,000 for each photograph. Registering your copyright also means you might collect attorney’s fees. Without a valid registration, you will only be entitled to collect actual damages and profits, which can be very difficult to prove.

What Does “Published” Mean?

According to US Copyright Law, an image is published if copies of the work are distributed to the public by sale, rent, lease, or loan, or another transfer of ownership. Distributing copies to a group of people with the intent to further distribute or display your photograph does mean it is published.

Do I Have to Register Every One of the Photographs I Take Individually?

No, you can register several of your images at once. You can make one registration for a group of published images when:

  • The same photographer took all of the images
  • The images were all first published in the same calendar year

If your photographs are unpublished, you may register them in groups or collections. According to the Professional Photographers of America,

“A group of unpublished images can be registered as a collection if the elements of the collection are assembled in an orderly form, the combined elements bear a single title identifying the collection as a whole, the copyright claimant for each element in the collection is the same, and all elements of the collection were created by the same author or at least one author has contributed copyrightable authorship to each element.”

When Should I Register My Photographs?

It is wise to register your photographs before they are published or publicly displayed.

How Much Does It Cost to Register My Photographs?

As of this posting, it costs between $35 and $55 per application to register your photographs with the US Copyright Office.

What Is the “Poor Man’s Copyright?”

Poor man’s copyright is a term that refers to the practice of mailing yourself a copy of your work. This is not a recommended substitute for a valid registration.

Contact the Sanders Law Group for Assistance with Copyright Matters

Our experienced copyright lawyers can help you secure and enforce your legal rights. We represent photographers around the globe and work hard to ensure that you receive proper compensation for your hard work. Call us at 516-233-1660 for a free case evaluation.


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