Photographs are among the “works of authorship” eligible for copyright protection under US law. Both published and unpublished images may be registered with the Copyright Office.
Many photographers choose not to register their work because they assume the process is too expensive or time-consuming. However, the Copyright Office allows the registration of multiple photos at once, expediting both the process and enforcement for artists and lawyers alike.
Groups of published photographs can be registered using a single form and by paying a single fee if:
· All the photos are by the same photographer,
· All the photos were published in the same calendar year, and
· All the photos have the same copyright claimant.
With modern media making it easier than ever to share an artist’s work, it’s important to register that work to avoid others from misappropriating credit for photos. In addition, getting it is possible to get statutory damages for copyright infringement in the range of $750 to $30,000 per infringing work. Copyright owners who can show willful infringement may be able to collect damages of up to $150,000 per work.
A freelance photojournalist was recently awarded $1.2 million after a federal jury found that two major media companies had infringed his copyrights in photos he had posted via Twitter of the 2010 Haiti earthquake.
Form GR/PPh/CON can be used to register groups of up to 750 photos, with a single filing fee, if the applicant identifies the date of publication for each photograph on the photos deposited with the application.
To make things even easier, a new Copyright Office pilot program now allows for the electronic registration of groups of published photographs, and of databases consisting predominantly of photographs, for a registration fee of $35.
For permission to submit an electronic application to register copyrights in published photos, applicants must call the Copyright Office’s Visual Arts Division at (202) 717-8202.
Applicants can also use the traditional means of submitting paper copies of groups of photos, using the Copyright Office form VA (visual arts). The registration fee for using paper forms is $65.
With the paper form, applicants must deposit two complete copies of the best edition of the photos.