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Copyright: Protecting Work

Steps to Take to Protect Your Work

Register Your Work:
While works attain copyright upon creation (provided the conditions on the "Overview" page are met), registering your work with the US Copyright Office ensures they have a record of your work. Registering your work is also the mandatory first step if you want to sue someone for infringement. You can register your works HERE; registration of one work by a single author is $35 while multiple works or works by more than one creator have a $55 fee.

Even though copyright is automatically granted, having a valid registration with the US Copyright Office ensures that, in the event of someone using your work without permission, you can sue for greater damages. Although a work can be registered at any point, even after copyright infringement has been discovered, you should register your work upon creation or within three months of publication if you think it is at risk for infringement.

Proactively registering your work allows you to sue for statutory damages, which range from $750-$300,000 per infringement. Without a registration, you can only sue for non-statutory damages, meaning the actual damages (the amount that would have been charged for use of the artwork had they asked you ahead of time) plus attributed profits (the percentage of the money made from selling the infringing object that can be attributed to the presence of your work).

Include a Copyright Notice:
Although a copyright notice is not necessary for protection, including a notice does serve to remind viewers of your work that it is covered by copyright. In the event of an infringement case, having the notice attached would prove the person using your work knew the work was copyrighted but willfully used it anyway.

A copyright notice should be composed of the following elements: the copyright symbol - © - (c) or the word "copyright;" the year of creation; the name of the author; and a rights statement.

Protect Your Work on the Internet

There are steps you can take to protect your work when you share it on the internet, including reducing the file size of images so all the details are not apparent; superimposing a watermark on images; and including a notice of your ownership. If you are ok with others using your work under certain circumstances, check out the licenses listed in the "Creative Commons (CC)" tab under "Exceptions."

How to Handle an Infringement

If you notice someone on an American website using or displaying your work, your best option is to send the website a take-down notice. This is called a "DMCA Takedown Notice" - DMCA stands for "Digital Millennium Copyright Act" - and serves to notify the website that one of their users has posted something that infringes on your copyright. Because of the DMCA, the website will likely not be held accountable for the infringement, but they can force the user to take down your work. The first step to sending a notice is to figure out where to send it - many websites will have a section devoted to reporting copyright infringement.

The notice must include the following elements: be in writing; provide your name, address and phone number; identify the work you want removed by name, description or by providing an image; provide the URL of where the infringement is posted; include a statement of good faith for the takedown request; and include your signature. For more detailed information on the process, visit "How to Submit a Copyright Takedown Notice" on artrepreneur.

College for Creative Studies website