At some point in every artist’s journey, you start wondering about protecting your artwork from copycats and dive into the world of copyrights. Unfortunately, it’s a huge black hole of a topic with lots of misconceptions and confusion. Not to mention the laws are changing with the times and when it comes to the digital world, everything is still in flux, it seems.

You might know or assume that all artwork is automatically copyrighted at the moment of its completion. It is true and you don’t have to formally register to be able to slap on a watermark copyright symbol. But The caveat is that if the work is infringed upon, without formal registration before the infringement you aren’t entitled to certain fees and you have to prove all sorts of things – often attorneys won’t even accept cases because the chances are so low that you would get anything out of it. There are lots of details to consider, but the point is that without formal copyright registrations you are making it easy for bad people to steal and take advantage of your work.

Obviously, certain types of work are more likely to be targeted than others depending on your style and craft. I just think it’s important to understand at least the basics and make an informed decision on how you want to deal with copyrights in regards to your body of creative work.

I just listened to the U.S. Copyright Office Art Licensing Ask Call led by Tara Reed and it really helped to clarify many of the misconceptions regarding copyrighting artwork. A definite must listen for all artists in my book, but especially if you are a visual artist looking to put your work out into the world.

Although we cannot all become experts on this topic, I think it’s important to include copyright registration in your creative workflow, to make sure you have covered your bases. As always, having things planned out ahead of time will save you time, money and lots of headaches.

Finally, you can refer to the Compendium of U.S. Copyright Office Practices that is mentioned in the call. There’s so much information in there, just takes a bit of time to read through and ultimately you should use it as a reference for whatever questions you might have.

Hopefully, these resources will help you get a bit clarity regarding copyrighting your artwork. Do you copyright your artwork regularly?

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