How to Register a Copyright

Technically, a work is copyrighted as soon as it is created.  The intent to register the copyright is illustrated by printing “Copyright” or “©” plus your name and the year of creation on the original work or the very first copy (photographs, digital images and video masters) of each work. Digital images can be watermarked with ©John Q Smithton 2022.

To register an image, the following elements must be sent to the Copyright Office:

1. A properly completed application form.

2. The filing fee for each application.

3. The required number of copies of the images being registered.  One copy of an unpublished work should accompany the application. Published works may have another requirement.

4. Prints which accompany the application should be uniform in size. They must be unmounted and at least 3 x 3″ and no larger than 9 x 12″. Transparencies must be no smaller than 35mm and should be in mounts.

5. A collection should be listed with an identifying title for each image. The Copyright office is particularly concerned that images may be lost or will not be filed correctly.

The correct application form for still images is Form VA. This form can be used for the registration of a single image or group of works in a series. The fee is based on the number of forms used at $10 per form.

Different rules apply for published works versus unpublished works. Published works may not be mixed with unpublished works to be copyrighted as works in a series.

Online information is available. Request kit number 107 for photographs. Complete online or download to print and mail. Be sure to also get the general information circular R1, “Copyright Basics.” There are several helpful videos and further information on the U.S. Copyright website.