For the professionals out there, or anyone who has a financial interest in their photographs, you’ve heard it as many times as I have—“yes you own the copyright the moment you press the shutter, BUT if you have to take someone to court, you’re better off having it registered with the Copyright office”. I’ve been advised that most attorneys won’t even touch your case if you don’t have a copyright registration. Of course, if you have a registration, I’ve also been advised that any violator will almost certainly settle out of court—it’s virtually impossible for them to win.
I finally decided to register a collection of images after my recent shoot at NASA’s JPL in Pasadena, of the Mars rover “Curiosity” (see the photos and more on my photo blog). I shot at the request of BoingBoing.net, but within hours of posting I had requests from The Daily and MSNBC to use the images, too. Then Gizmodo grabbed one and cut my copyright off of it, which really made me go “enough’s enough… I gotta do this”. (They have since fixed it; they put the watermark back on and added a photo credit—but not without being told to do so. Shoddy journalism.)
I’m a member of ASMP and subscribe to their ASMPadvice mailing list, and when I first started to work through the copyright submission process and had questions, I posted them there. As usual the folks on the list were fantastic, and I got my answers and succeeded in my first submission. I used Aperture to generate the contact sheet that I submitted, and spent some time figuring out a good way to do that, so that’s what I want to share here.
Online copyright submission is handled at www.copyright.gov—just click on the “eCO Login” icon (electronic Copyright Office) to get started. You’ll need to create a free account if you don’t already have one.