Using Photographs to Register Other Types of Visual Art

Trying to protect your copyrighted work without registering with the U.S. Copyright Office is like running uphill…with a rock tied to your waist. And for many small business creators, registration seems daunting and time consuming. This double-whammy has gotten in the way of many independent creators being able to protect their rights. The good news is that RightsClick makes submitting a registration application simple and fast. More about that in a minute.

A complete registration includes three elements: the application form, the application fee and a copy of the work being registered – known as a “deposit copy.” The basic idea is simple: you send a copy of what you are registering so the Copyright Office Examiners know which work goes with the registration application. With so many works being created in digital formats, it’s pretty intuitive that you send a copy of that file with your registration application. But what if your work is a visual art, like a painting or sculpture, that was not created in a digital format?

Once upon a time, people had to submit physical copies of their works to the Copyright Office. Yes, that meant they had a giant warehouse full of everything from lawn gnomes to cassette tapes, and of course stacks and stacks of books. If you’ve seen the final scene from the first Indiana Jones movie, you get the idea – just not as organized. Fortunately, today it’s much easier – you may submit photographs of your visual art to serve as deposit copies.

Because your deposit is the connection between your registration and your work, you want to make sure your deposit shows all the creative elements of your work. If you have two-dimensional visual art, a photo does the job. Just make sure the lighting is sufficient to see all the detail, and make sure the photograph reproduces the colors and shades in the work as faithfully as possible.

Three-dimensional works may require more than one photograph per work to make sure you show all the details – and don’t forget top and bottom if you have creative elements there. The catch here is that the Copyright Office website only lets you upload one file per work for registration (we’ll talk about group registrations another time). But if you just put all the photos of your 3D artwork into a single .pdf document – voila! You have all your angles covered (literally!) in a single file that is acceptable as a deposit copy.

Also, be sure to correctly identify the type of work you are depositing. For instance, just because you are sending in photographs, the work you are in fact registering may be identified as a “sculptural work,” “graphic design,” “painting,” and so on.

If you register before an infringement starts, you have a lot more enforcement tools at your disposal. RightsClick provides a friendly, easy system that walks you through all the information you need to register your work in just minutes. We even submit the application to the Copyright Office for you. And when you submit your registration through RightsClick, that information becomes part of your portfolio to help you manage your copyright rights throughout your career.