Artists of all types and media take a risk when showcasing their work on the internet. Images are easy to steal, and many artists have had the unfortunate experience of seeing their work end up in places that they did not authorize or receive compensation for.
Understandably, artists have resorted to “watermarking” their images online to prevent others from stealing their work. While watermarking can be a great deterrent, it’s not the same thing as a copyright, nor is it a substitute for officially obtaining copyright protection from the US Copyright Office.
Images Automatically Have Copyright Protection
The good news is that in the United States and most western countries, a piece of art receives copyright protection the second you click the button on your camera, hit save in photoshop, or apply the last brush stroke on your canvas and upload an image of that painting to social media. You don’t have to put a special warning on your images to receive such protection; your art is copyrighted from the moment of creation.
Watermarks Can Serve as a Reminder of Your Copyright and Can Be a Great Deterrent
A watermark is a graphic that is added to an image to assert your copyright or ownership, typically by using photoshop or another online program to apply the mark. A watermark may use your company’s name, your personal name, or your logo. How you choose to watermark your images is up to you.
Again, the watermark itself is not a copyright. Your work is already protected by copyright the moment it is created and the watermark can serve as a reminder to others not to steal your images because you are copyright protected. It also makes it more difficult for others to steal the picture as the watermark typically distorts the image and takes away from its appeal. As a final bonus, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) makes it illegal for someone to remove your watermark. If you can prove that someone removed or altered the watermark used in your image in an unauthorized manner, you may be able to recover fines up to $25,000 plus attorney’s fees for the infringement.
Registering Your Art with The US Copyright Office Is Still Necessary to Fight Against Infringement
Though you are granted copyright protection for your work the moment it’s created, you cannot sue for copyright infringement if you don’t take the extra step to register your work with the US Copyright Office. It is the only way that you will be able to bring your case to federal court and obtain a monetary reward for damages if your work is stolen or improperly used. The good news is that registering your work with the US Copyright Office is something that’s relatively inexpensive and easy to do with the help of a copyright attorney. As a benefit to registration, you are entitled to additional damages, such as attorney’s fees.
If you need assistance, our intellectual property attorneys are available to help guide you through the copyright registration process to ensure you have this extra layer of protection for your work. Simply contact our law firm at 888-666-0062 to schedule a consultation.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice or a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney.
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