DIY Copyright Registration is a Good Idea

Any attorney will tell creative professionals to register their work the U.S. Copyright Office because without timely registration, taking enforcement action against an infringement is either hindered or impossible. Some creators register on their own, and others have attorneys do it for them. But the truth is that it’s better (and cheaper!) to do it yourself, which is one reason we streamlined the registration process in RightsClick.

In November 2021, in a case involving potential invalidation of a copyright registration (Unicolors, Inc. v. H&M Hennes & Mauriz), the Supreme Court made a decision that was very helpful to creators—deciding that honest mistakes on a registration application are not a reason to invalidate the registration. And who’s more likely to make an honest mistake? You or a copyright attorney? Because of this decision, many copyright attorneys would rather creators take care of registration themselves.

In fact, counsel for Unicolors in that case, Scott Alan Burroughs says, “I tell my clients to register early and often, and it is in many cases preferable, for a number of reasons, if they do it themselves. In fact, I’ve referred clients to RightsClick to make the process more efficient.”

Of course, RightsClick software is designed to prevent common mistakes like mixing published works with unpublished works or selecting the wrong application form or the wrong administrative class. Plus, a registration application with RightsClick takes just minutes; it becomes part of your organized creative portfolio; and it’s a lot cheaper than having an attorney file the application for you.

Learn more here or write us with your questions below. We’d love to hear how we can help you start protecting your work today.

Use Multiple Photos to Register a Single Work

When you want to register a visual work like a sculpture, painting, or jewelry, you may — and often should — send several photographs of the work to the U.S. Copyright Office as your registration deposit copy. You can combine the images on a single PDF document to submit, or if you want to simply upload multiple photographs to a RightsClick Project and tell the system to treat the images as a single work, we’ve made that easy to do. Watch this simple slide show, which you can download as a PDF here.

RightsClick and Qti.ai – A Winning Combination to Combat Counterfeiting

At RightsClick one of our core beliefs is that professional creators can take control of their copyright rights and take action against many unauthorized uses without the time and expense of consulting a lawyer and filing a federal lawsuit. Copyright registration is the lynchpin to successful DIY enforcement, which is why we built a tool to make it quick and easy to submit works for registration with the U.S. Copyright Office.

One area where registration makes a difference is compliance with DMCA takedown notices. Many creators have experience with some of the major platforms—Meta, YouTube, et al—avoiding compliance with takedown requests, whether the work is registered or not. We could spend pages discussing why these companies behave like this, but one area where DMCA compliance still works fairly well—and where that registration number appears to make a difference—is in conjunction with counterfeit and fraudulent merchandise sold on platforms like Etsy, Ebay, and Amazon. And this is one area where our partner Qti.ai may be able to help protect your business.

Counterfeiters infringe intellectual property in a number of ways, but a common practice is to make and sell copies of visual works, or products featuring visual works, that are already being sold by the legitimate copyright owner. But just because you aren’t selling your works doesn’t protect you. Sometimes they make unauthorized copies of visual works that the artist never intended to sell as merchandise – and sell it anyway. Counterfeiters also often copy product shots from a legitimate seller’s page to display on an illegitimate seller’s page. So, if you are selling merchandise, for example, you may want to register both your underlying work (e.g., designs) and the product shot photographs.

Unfortunately, counterfeiters frequently operate outside the U.S., making it difficult, if not impossible, to reach them directly through enforcement action. A silver lining is that many of the ecommerce platforms do comply with properly filed takedown requests in a timely manner, and when they are provided the registration numbers, this seems to aid in that compliance. This makes sense because registration with the U.S. Copyright Office is legal evidence of your ownership of the work.

Still, the enforcement process in the world of counterfeiting can be cumbersome, which is why we are very excited about the work being done by our partners at Qti.ai. “We love to help protect the brands of small artists and designers, so they can concentrate on their craft,” says co-founder Cheryl Darrup.

A U.S. company based in western New York, Qti.ai has developed some impressive enforcement methods to help small-business creators and to protect consumers. Their “Scam Intelligence Algorithm” is offered free to consumers to help determine whether a product offer is legit before an order is placed. But for copyright owners like entrepreneurial creators, their service can be used to monitor the major platforms for infringements and to initiate takedowns on behalf of the copyright owner. And Qti.ai has had success dealing with some of the largest platforms, both in the U.S. and abroad. “Our industry-leading Scam Intelligence Algorithm boosts efficiency in detecting infringements and keeps our monthly costs reasonable for our clients. As we fortify our database with deeper threat indicators, our strong success rate of takedowns will continue to improve across ecommerce platforms,” Darrup says.

We’ve had some great discussions with Cheryl and co-founder Will Boychuck, including ways we can work together to help small-business creators. It’s a natural collaboration. RightsClick is all about getting your portfolio organized, getting your work registered, and taking the most affordable actions possible to protect your business. And Qti.ai may be exactly the enforcement tool you need to stop counterfeiters from reaping the rewards from your intellectual property.

Visit Qti.ai to learn more.

Graphic Artists Guild Hosts RightsClick

Get organized. Register your work. Take action.

Webinar Hosted by Graphic Artists Guild – 9/21/22

Thanks to the wonderful folks at Graphic Artists Guild for hosting last week’s webinar talking about reasons to protect copyright–and how to do it using RightsClick! Watch the video below to learn why we think you can do a lot more about infringements of your work other than giving up or calling a lawyer.

Plagiarism Today Reviews RightsClick

by Jonathan Bailey at Plagiarism Today

For independent creators, every hour spent working on one’s copyright is an hour not spent on creating new work or running their business. As such, many creators either neglect their work’s copyright protection or pay someone else to handle it, often at great cost.

The reason for this is simple, the systems for organizing, registering and enforcing copyrights were, by in large, designed for large copyright holders. What works well for a large movie studio or record label doesn’t work well for independent creators.

See full article at PlagiarismToday.

Commercial Publishers Keep Using Photos Without Permission

by David Newhoff – Republished from The Illusion of More

I understand pursuing a fair use defense in a copyright case when the user of a work does something new and creative and believes there is a plausible argument to be made. I also understand why copyright skeptics file amicus briefs seeking opinions that would change the fair use doctrine. But what I find astonishing is the professional, who makes an archetypal use of a work, for which permission was obviously required, and then believes they can prevail on fair use through costly litigation. Because this keeps happening.

In the Spring of 2019, fine art and landscape photographer Elliott McGucken captured a transitory natural phenomenon—the sudden appearance of a lake in the middle of Death Valley, CA, known to be one of the hottest and driest places on Earth.[1] Heavy rains that March formed the 10-mile-wide ephemeral lake, of which McGucken made a series of beautiful and rare photographs, and several publications used his images by permission to accompany articles about the unusual event.[2] But when UK-based, digital publisher Pub Ocean failed to obtain permission for a similar use, McGucken sued for copyright infringement.

Using a photograph for illustrative purposes in an article or book is a paradigmatic use that requires license from the copyright owner. Newspapers, periodicals et al. have had to obtain permission for this purpose for as long as photographs have been protected by copyright law. Yet, despite this longstanding practice, even large commercial entities, perhaps lost in digital-age habits, too often use images without permission. Then, rather than settling with the photographer upon notification of the alleged infringement, these parties compound the error by litigating fair use defenses that will evaporate as surely as a lake in Death Valley.

Read the rest of the article at The Illusion of More.

Maybe Don’t Talk About Your CCB Claim on Social Media

(Reposted from The Illusion of More by David Newhoff)

The copyright small-claim alternative, adjudicated by the Copyright Claims Board (CCB), was intentionally designed to accommodate pro se participants, meaning that both claimants and respondents can represent themselves without hiring attorneys. After all, the foundation of small claims court or alternative dispute resolution is to save money. And indeed, we are seeing some early pro se claimants file complaints with the CCB, which began accepting claims on June 16th.

It occurred to me while co-moderating a copyright page on Facebook because, of course, social media encourages a habit of saying or asking everything that comes to mind. But one aspect of legal training the copyright owner/claimants, or for that matter defendants, likely do not have is the discipline to keep mum about an active case. Or at least what should and should not be discussed publicly.

Asking questions or making statements about administrative procedures related to the CCB are safe topics to discuss in public, but parties to a case should remember that it is a legal proceeding with a discovery process. That means anything you say about the facts pertaining to the case itself—including intentions, timelines, beliefs, etc.—may be discoverable and may be entered into evidence by the opposing party. And announcing, griping, gloating, or just describing these matters on social media makes discovery very easy for the opposing party.

This is not to suggest that either claimants or respondents are going to lie or have much to hide of any relevance to a typical CCB case. But if you are a party on either side, it is just good practice to do what an attorney would tell you to do and simply not talk about the case publicly until it’s resolved.

Keeping this discipline could prove difficult for some. Both alleged infringers and anti-copyright ideologues are known to at least insult, if not harass, copyright owners looking to enforce their rights. “Greedy” may be the kindest thing someone calls you, but don’t take the bait, don’t feed the troll, and don’t talk about your case until it’s over. By the same token, if you’re the claimant and you’ve filed a CCB claim, it’s probably not a good idea to also engage in that odd form of digital-age justice generally called “shaming.”

The copyright antagonists want to see the CCB fail. As copyright owners and advocates, we want the small-claim alternative to work, and work in a serious and fair manner grounded in the merits of claims and defenses. As such, both for your own sake and the overall effectiveness of a brand-new system, if you are party to a claim, it’s a good idea to exercise some social media discipline and keep most of the conversation about your case to yourself.