Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Taking my own advice

-Dan dos Santos

So after imploring countless people to register their artwork with the U.S. Copyright Office, I am proud to say that I finally got around to doing it myself! My Certificate of Registration just arrived in the mail the other day, and I'm psyched!

I honestly don't know why it took me so long, the process is incredibly easy. Basically, all you need is $30 and half an hour... and you can register everything you've ever painted.

Typically, registering a work with the copyright office costs about $30 per piece. But the really nice thing is, the piece being registered can be a collection of work. Meaning all the material contained therein is then registered as well.

Further more, if the work in question has never been printed (ie. a PDF), you can register it completely electronically. If you have printed it, you need to mail a hard copy to the Library of Congress for their records. That's a bit more work, and expense. So for the sake of ease, I recommend creating a new, electronic version of said book, just for registration purposes.

So here is what you do:

1. Make a PDF called 'The Art of Whatever".
2. Toss every piece you still own the rights to in it.
3. Go HERE
4. Create an account and fill out all the info regarding your work.
5. Send $30 electronically.
6. Wait 2 weeks, and your Certificate of Registration magically arrives in the mail!

Seriously. It's that easy. You've probably wasted more time on Facebook today than doing this actually takes. So come on, people! I want to see comments from everyone who did something really productive today!


  1. It's great that you've posted this.But in fact what happens to works that are not registered anywhere? Dont the author own the rights? What about the stuff in DA for example? It has a kind of a "I own the rights on this" mark on it. Isn't that enough? And last thing which may happen to be obvious and thus make my question look retarded but I am curious anyways- Is the link you've posted only for US citizens and ,well, does every country support such an option?

    1. Gollorr, See Arnie's comment below. Basically, the copyright office does not GRANT copyrights (that's inherent). What they do is REGISTER copyrights. So if someone steals your works, you can prove it's yours, and that they intentionally used it without permission since the image was on file.

  2. Do you know if this also applies for international rights? Is it usefull for me, as a Dutch illustrator, to registrate copyrights in The States?

  3. Under the current copyright laws, an artist owns the rights to their work upon creation and until such time that they 1] sell or assign those rights to another (fairly standard in the comics and entertainment industries, but there ARE exceptions) or 2] effectively abandons claim to or control of the rights (traditionally the result of a failure to defend the copyright when it is challenged or otherwise infringed). Registering your copyright allows you to seek punitive damages and legal fees through the courts when an infringement occurs, which are not allowed otherwise: you can definitely sue someone for copyright infringement, but without the formal copyright registration the most an artist could receive with a win would be whatever the standard fee would be if the work had been commissioned.

    If you're an artist in another country, there's no need to register your work in the U.S. unless you publish work here--copyright ostensibly is to allow a creator to control and profit from their works, a protection against unauthorized use and reproduction, which now includes digital formats. The copyright laws of an artist's country (most commonly covered by the Berne Convention and the Universal Copyright Convention) should be followed and in effect regardless of where any infringement takes place and they should use their own legal system to seek redress. So if it's recommended that you formally file paper work in the country that you live in, you certainly should. If, on the other hand, an overseas artist is represented by American companies and is doing extensive business in the U.S., registering the copyright for those works is advised.

    All that said...never assume that the legal system is "fair" or that the bad guys are always punished or that the courts will award you a pile of cash if you catch someone with their hand in your pocket. It's not, they aren't, and any sizable judgements are almost always knocked down by judges and are appealed when they aren't--and litigation inevitably comes with a huge emotional pricetag that's almost as large as a good lawyer's fees. So...it's advisable to be diligent and protect your work as best you can (including registering your copyright); consulting with an intellectual properties/copyright attorney is a great way to find out what's what and worth the time and money.

  4. Dan, so did you scan or photograph all the work and turn it into a pdf? or did you create a "collection" of jpegs?

    I wonder if Apple's new ibooks app would be a good tool to create a collection in ebook form?



    1. I always have scans of my work, even low-rez ones fro my website. I basically just imported my entire website in Acrobat, and saved it as a PDF. That part took just 5 minutes.

  5. More questions...

    Did you register your concepts drawings and studies for the finished work as well?

    And now that your work is registered, is it accessible for the general public to view? or will it be?

    And if the answer is yes to accessibility by the public... I imagine it would be wise to make sure that before we register works inprogress or ideas still being flushed out that we don't want not show to the public yet, that we hold off on registering that work... or at least some of it...

    Thanks again, Mike

    1. You could register sketches, though it's kind of a waste. The registration only helps to protect you if you have to actually sue someone. I highly doubt anyone would be using my concept sketches as finished art. So the likelihood of them becoming an issue is rather slim.

  6. Just to play devil's advocate, what's to stop me collecting loads of images of your work and registering a PDF as mine? What sort of checks are there in order to get this certificate?



    1. Nothing to stop you really... except for a few years in prison if you're caught.

  7. This is excellent advice, and something we all should and need to do, and something Ellie Frazetta preached to me years ago about doing.


  8. "Just to play devil's advocate, what's to stop me collecting loads of images of your work and registering a PDF as mine?"

    That would be fraud and there are laws against that, too. :-)

    Would that Ellie had followed her own advice. She didn't.

    1. Arnie,

      I have not gotten around to it, at the time I had really nothing was a student and no money, this way is so much more user friendly than at the time...........

  9. Making a PDF collection as a "electronic book" for submission is a sounds like great idea! I register my works as collections as well, but a bit differently. Because I post a lot of artwork and photos on my website, I periodically register them as a "website collection" of images, but uploaded as individual .jpg files. The downside to this is that you are required to give a description for each picture, which takes a while if you have a lot of images. However, it gives additional information to the Library of Congress as to what each picture is.

  10. Hey Dan, this is a great idea. Do I have to pay $30 every time that I create a new set of paintings? Or can I just add onto the current list of paintings?

  11. I believe a PDF collection of illustrations will work great if the artwork submitted has not been previously published. However, I'm pretty sure there are different rules to follow if the illustrations have been previously published (i.e. on the cover of a periodical, inside a book, in an advertisement, etc). You can group all covers of magazines for a 12 month period together on a single paper VA Form and pay a single fee for that grouping. Illustrations printed inside books may require 2 copies of the published book be sent in. Or, you can submit art as unpublished if sent just prior to sending the artwork to your client for publication.

  12. Registered my work! Thanks so much for this post, Dan. :)

  13. Do new comments on really old posts still get answered?? :P
    I am finally going to register my work, but am wondering about personal work that is later published in something like Spectrum, or ImagineFX. Can I still include it in my pdf collection with all of my other unpublished work that I still own rights to?


Contact Form


Email *

Message *

Whatsapp Button works on Mobile Device only

Start typing and press Enter to search