Artist Websites  Artist Websites |  Featured Artists |  Art Marketing  Art Marketing |  Art Contest |  BrushBuzz |  InformedCollector |  FASO Loves You - Share Your Art, Share Life


« Selected Upcoming Exhibits by Informed Collector Artists | Main | I Have a Problem »

Follow this Blog

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Quick Links

Artist Websites and Good Design
How to Sell Art
How to Get Your Art Noticed by Galleries
SEO For Artists - The Ultimate Tip


Blog Roll

Mikki Senkarik's Blog

acrylic painting
advice for artists
art and culture
art and psychology
art and society
art appreciation
art blogging advice
Art Business
art collectors
art criticism
art education
art fairs
art festivals
art forum
art gallery tips
art history
art law
art marketing
art museums
art reception
art show
art studio
art supplies
art websites
artist resume advice
artist statement
Artwork videos
BoldBrush Winners
Brian Sherwin
Carolyn Henderson
Carrie Turner
Clint Watson
commissioned art
Cory Huff
Curator's Pick
Daily Art Show
Dave Geada
Dave Nevue
email newsletters
Eric Rhoads
exposure tips
FASO Featured Artists
Fine Art Shows
framing art
Gayle Faucette Wisbon
giclee prints
Guest Posts
Internet Scams
Jack White
Jane Hunt
Jason Horejs
Jen Piche
John Weiss
Juried Shows
Kathleen Dunphy
Keith Bond
Kelley Sanford
Kim VanDerHoek
landscape painting
Lori Woodward
Luann Udell
Mark Edward Adams
mixed media
Moshe Mikanovsky
New FASO Artist Members
oil painting
online art competitions
online art groups
open studio
plein air painting
press releases
pricing artwork
sell art
selling art online
selling fine art online
SEO for Artist Websites
social media
social networking
solo show
Steve Atkinson
still life art
support local art
Think Tank
websites for artists
Zac Elletson

 Jan 2018
Dec 2017
Nov 2017
Oct 2017
Sep 2017
Aug 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
Apr 2017
Mar 2017
Feb 2017
Jan 2017
Dec 2016
Nov 2016
Oct 2016
Sep 2016
Aug 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
Apr 2016
Mar 2016
Feb 2016
Jan 2016
Dec 2015
Nov 2015
Oct 2015
Sep 2015
Aug 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
Apr 2015
Mar 2015
Feb 2015
Jan 2015
Dec 2014
Nov 2014
Oct 2014
Sep 2014
Aug 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
Apr 2014
Mar 2014
Feb 2014
Jan 2014
Dec 2013
Nov 2013
Oct 2013
Sep 2013
Aug 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
Apr 2013
Mar 2013
Feb 2013
Jan 2013
Dec 2012
Nov 2012
Oct 2012
Sep 2012
Aug 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
Apr 2012
Mar 2012
Feb 2012
Jan 2012
Dec 2011
Nov 2011
Oct 2011
Sep 2011
Aug 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
Apr 2011
Mar 2011
Feb 2011
Jan 2011
Dec 2010
Nov 2010
Oct 2010
Sep 2010
Aug 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
Apr 2010
Mar 2010
Feb 2010
Jan 2010
Dec 2009
Nov 2009
Oct 2009
Sep 2009
Aug 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
Apr 2009
Mar 2009
Feb 2009
Jan 2009
Dec 2008
Nov 2008
Oct 2008
Sep 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
Apr 2008
Mar 2008
Feb 2008
Jan 2008
Dec 2007
Nov 2007
Oct 2007
Sep 2007
Aug 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
Apr 2007
Mar 2007
Feb 2007
Jan 2007
Dec 2006
Nov 2006
Oct 2006
Sep 2006
Aug 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
Apr 2006
Mar 2006
Feb 2006
Jan 2006
Dec 2005
Nov 2005
Sep 2005
Aug 2005


Copyright Registration: Protecting Yourself as Well as Your Collectors

by Brian Sherwin on 11/19/2010 9:24:48 AM

This article is by Brian Sherwin, Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. Brian Sherwin is an art critic, blogger, curator, artist and writer based near Chicago, Illinois. He has been published in Hi Fructose Magazine, Illinois Times, and other publications, and linked to by publications such as The Boston Globe, Juxtapoz Magazine, Deutsche Bank ArtMag, ARTLURKER, Myartspace, Blabbermouth, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Modern Art Obsession, Citizen LA, Shark Forum, Two Coats of Paint and Art Fag City. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.



The issue of copyright registration is always a hot topic among artists. Copyright registration can be an important aspect of marketing your art. The protection offered by copyright law is one of the best ways to secure the future growth of your art business. Copyright registration provides a strong foundation for future sales via means of prints and other merchandise-- and protects your creative investments if issues over who owns your images arise. Not only does copyright registration protect you-- it also protects art collectors who have invested in your artwork. It is something that all selling artists should do-- but I’m fully aware that most artists don’t.

I personally think that registering copyright of your artwork is important because if an art collector is serious about his or her art collection he or she will want to know that artwork in the collection is unique. In other words, to most art collectors the identity of the artist-- the person behind the art-- is just as important as the artwork itself. Luckily copyright registration under current law does well to protect your ‘art identity’, so to speak, in that it makes it harder for individuals to get away with using your name as well as reproductions or alterations of your artwork without your approval.

 According to United States Copyright Law a work of art is considered copyright protected "the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.". However, formal registration-- which does involve a fee-- offers further protection and gives artists an advantage when copyright infringement is discovered. Thus, copyright registration is important because if your work is profitable chances are a would-be infringer will see profit in your artwork as well.

 Think of it this way-- if copyright of your artwork is not registered it can potentially be harmful to your career if someone with better funding and legal representation decides to use images of your non-registered artwork. It can also-- in my opinion-- become an obstacle when dealing with art collectors who desire unique works of art. Without formal copyright registration you can end up competing against yourself, so to speak, due to an individual or company infringing upon your artwork. If copyright of your artwork is not registered prior to infringement you may end up in a difficult legal battle.

 If your artwork has mass or commercial appeal you want to make sure that you and you alone profit from it. Again, in my opinion copyright registration secures your career as an artist as well as the investment serious art collectors have made in your artwork. If you want to be successful marketing your artwork you want to make sure to stop anyone who attempts to use your images on coffee mugs, T-shirts, and other mass-produced merchandise. This is especially true if you have developed a style that is unique to you. True, you can’t copyright a style of painting-- but if your style is popular among collectors you can indeed register those individual works in order to protect your interests.

Artists need to look after their best interest as well as the best interest of their collectors. That is why copyright registration is so important. It will help you to protect yourself from infringers who are most likely hoping that you are another artist who does not understand the importance of copyright registration. According to attorneys I’ve spoken with in the past, if your artwork is registered you have control of derivative works. Thus, even if an infringer alters an image of your artwork he or she still owes you for the use of said work and is placed with the burden of proving the legitimacy of the derivative work under the concept of ‘fair use‘. Chances are a judge or jury will not consider the infringers work to be parody or social commentary-- two huge factors concerning the concept of ’fair use’-- if your images are altered and used for a design on coffee cups that were produced merely for profit.

Sticking to the coffee cup example-- imagine that a copyright infringer ‘steals’ your image and uses part of it as a design on a coffee cup. The infringer then sells 200 coffee cups for $10 a piece by the time you discover the infringement. The infringer has made $2,000 in profit off of your art. Now lets say that after the cost of production the infringer has cleared $1,500 in profit off of your art. If your artwork is not registered the most you can hope to recover is $1,500. Furthermore, if your artwork is not registered prior to the infringement you can’t seek the expense of having to hire an attorney. However, if the artwork was registered before the infringement you are entitled to ‘statutory damages’ and the court will be authorized to award you attorney’s fees, as well as, other costs involved with litigation.

That said, ‘Statutory’ and ‘damages’ are two words that, when combined, make any infringer cringe. Those two words are your best friends when dealing with copyright infringers-- but they only have impact if the artwork is registered! If artwork is registered prior to being infringed upon an artist could potentially be awarded up to $150,000 per willful infringement due to ‘statutory damages‘. In other words, the infringer will most likely want to settle out of court, stop production of any reproductions of the art or merchandise involving images of the art, and give the artist a large settlement in order to prevent further debt. Thus, unless you want your collectors to reduce the value of your art to that of a mere coffee cup it is best to at least consider formal copyright registration. With registered artworks you can legally fight individuals who undermine the market for your art!

Why are copyright registered artworks such a heavy blow to copyright infringers? Simple. By registering your artwork you prove by ‘prima-facie’ that you created the image at a specific time. The registration documents provide sufficient evidence to prove that the artwork was created before the infringement. In other words, the burden of proving the legality of using your images is placed on the copyright infringer-- which is nearly impossible for an infringer to prove. Thus, for a minimal fee you protect your career as an artist while at the same time protecting the interest that art collectors have in your artwork.

Obviously it can become very expensive to copyright every work of art that you create. Thus, you want to decide which images are profitable. I’d suggest registering any artwork that you have sold to a collector in order to protect yourself as well as the collectors investment in your art. Furthermore, you can register several works of art under one title. However, keep in mind that there are specific guidelines to follow when registering a collection of works. You may also want to seek legal help if it is your first time registering copyright-- it can be very confusing at times. That said, my opinion is that the expense is a good investment in your career.

In closing, I’m not an attorney-- so don’t consider my opinion to be legal advice. Copyright law can be very complicated and more often than not how it is interpreted boils down to the personal opinions of a judge or jury. My suggestion that artists should register their artwork in order to protect themselves and their collectors is something I firmly believe is worthwhile for an artist to pursue. Consider my opinion on the matter to be an invitation to learn more about copyright registration and how it can protect you as well as your art marketing efforts. Copyright protection of art secures the business-side of your art as well as the integrity of your art.
Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin


FASO: The Leading Provider of Professional Artist Websites.
FineArtViews: Straight talk about art marketing, inspiration - daily to your inbox.

InformedCollector: Free daily briefs about today's finest artists in your inbox.

BoldBrush Contest: Monthly Online Painting Contest with over $25,000 in awards. 

Daily Art Show: Daily Show of Art that reaches thousands of potential collectors.


Related Posts:

Don't Fear The Copycats

How do we protect our copyrighted images on the Internet?

Protecting Copyrighted Images Revisited

Right-Click Disablers are Annoying and Don't Work

Topics: art marketing | copyright | FineArtViews 

What Would You Like to Do Next?
Post your comment Join Email List Follow via RSS Share Share


Loading comments...

Helen Horn Musser
Brian, thank you for such an informative post; did not know there were so many good reasons for registering copywrite. Should start doing this. Finding time will be key.

Charlotte Herczfeld
Thank you, Brian. Good advice.

The main point is "first publication". Making the creatorship official, in an unchangeable way. Registering is a very secure way of making the claim very clear.

I'm no lawyer either, but here are some thoughts I've gotten from people who know copyright:

Publishing on your blog and website also is making public, but doesn't have as strong value as evidence. Posting on artist's communities is also publishing, and hosted websites (harder for us to make changes in dates). Having a pic of the artwork at several internet places will, when taken together, have a stronger value as evidence.

In my country (Sweden) we do not have a registry for artwork (to my knowledge). What we can do is to make a catalogue of the artwork in our exhibitions, print it, and hand it to the national library.

Newspapers, magazines, an the like, are also good publication.

Michael Cardosa
Hi Brian,

Pretty informative and excellent advice. From here I'm going to explore the process and costs involved in copyrighting a work of art.

Thanks again,


Judy Mudd
Thank you Brian. I had no idea of the possible ramifications between copyrighting and not copyrighting. Obviously, you need to look at your work through an "infringer's eyes" and evaluate which of your works would most likely be desirable to them. Your advice has made me want to seek additional information on the process of copyrighting artwork. Thanks, again!

Stede Barber
Wow, talk about brain freeze. I know there are a few good books available simplifying this process. I've heard of the concept of registering a group of work rather than each individual work, which saves hugely on costs.

Carol McIntyre
This is one of those tasks that always ends up at the bottom of my "To Do List." ( Does Lori have any ideas about this per her Scrum methodology? ) Stede, I too have heard that grouping our work is more cost effective.

Many artists apply watermarks on their work when they post them on the Internet. Is this advised? If so, how are they doing it?

Thank you!

Sharon Will
I think you're right that copyright registration of images is the safe and most thorough step we can take to help insure protection on our work. Even though I don't think we'll ever see many artists taking this step.
But, the greatest infringments of our copyrights are done overseas. China is noted for their sweatshop industry of stealing and copying images from everywhere, of past and present artists. And from everything I have read concerning successful lawsuits here in the states, then being enforced in China is pretty tough.
I guess I'm not as concerned about winning a copyright infringment on images in the States (even on a non-registered work), as I am with what goes on overseas out of our control.

Can someone provide a link to where artists can get more info and register their works online.

Maria Brophy
Another thing to consider: Keep the copyrights to ALL your artwork.

Some artists sell the rights to some images. This can potentially hurt the collectors of your other art.

Using the coffee mug example: A collector paid top dollar for one of your paintings. You sold an image (in your same style) which ended up on cheap coffee mugs in Wal-Mart. The collector of the fine art could get very ticked off and you just lost a collector.

You have to have complete control over all of your artwork to protect your personal brand.

This is important but one of those 'headache' subjects. I worked in scientific illustration for many years, including some work for the university P.R. department when I was a graduate student. I did an illustration to accompany the announcement of a major primate fossil discovery, and made two versions of the image. The university paid for one and I kept the other. These images that I created have been 'stolen' by anti-science organizations, and posted on their internet websites along with fraudulent information about the fossil. I tied to get these websites to either remove the images entirely or to correct their inaccurate and distorted information about the fossil. I had limited success. I wasn't in a position to take legal action, as I was deep in the middle of graduate research and also on a limited budget.

This is important but one of those 'headache' subjects. I worked in scientific illustration for many years, including some work for the university P.R. department when I was a graduate student. I did an illustration to accompany the announcement of a major primate fossil discovery, and made two versions of the image. The university paid for one and I kept the other. These images that I created have been 'stolen' by anti-science organizations, and posted on their internet websites along with fraudulent information about the fossil. I tied to get these websites to either remove the images entirely or to correct their inaccurate and distorted information about the fossil. I had limited success. I wasn't in a position to take legal action, as I was deep in the middle of graduate research and also on a limited budget.

Brian Sherwin
Helen, Michael, Judy thank you. I”™m glad that you found it informative.

Charlotte, another step you can take to prove a time line is to simply place photographs of the image into an envelope, seal it, and have it stamped at a post office. That is an old trick comic book artists and writers used to do. It does not always hold up in court-- but sometimes it can be useful in establishing a timeline.

Steve, for most artists I think the group method would be the best option to keep costs down.

Carol, watermarks can be a good step to protect your artwork online. However, do realize that if someone wants your work bad enough-- and with minimal tech skill-- they can ”?remove”™ the watermark or simply use the sections that are not covered by the watermark. Also keep in mind that most viewers are turned off by watermarks in general depending on where it is placed. Some artists will cover almost the entire image with a watermark-- which is a real cog to the viewing experience online.

Sharon, from what I know the government in China has tough copyright laws for works created in China-- but often turn a blind-eye as far as works outside of China that are infringed upon by Chinese businesses. That said, most countries that do follow international copyright law-- as well as their own law concerning copyright-- strictly will not allow businesses to stock infringing products of China if copyright infringement is discovered. It would be hard to file against a company in China-- but you could easily file against a company in the US selling those products if your images are upon them.

Nadine, try the United States Copyright Office website at

Maria, good point. I”™d go further by suggesting that artists explain copyright to buyers. People new to collecting art sometimes assume they have total control over the original artwork once purchased-- which is simply not he case. In fact, artists still retain a lot of rights to artwork in other ways. For example, a buyer can”™t alter the work or destroy it-- in either case it could become a legal issue if the artist discovers it.

Brian Sherwin
Kim, you can always turn a bad situation into good press. You”™d be surprised how many art bloggers love a good copyright infringement story. In fact, I”™ve known artists who have sent cease-and-desist letters to infringing companies and organization-- and did not receive a response until they mentioned that they were going public with the story.

It can be very tactful if you are in a pinch. Most companies-- and even groups such as the one you mentioned-- try to avoid bad press at all costs. Stir up the potential for a backlash and they may change their opinion on the matter quickly.

I'm speaking from experience because I've exposed copyright infringement in the past and in a few cases the company/person involved actually tried to pay me to remove the content! Some people suggest that any press is good press-- obviously that is not always true for those who infringe on copyright.

Linda Hengst
Thanks Brian, You answered one question with the answer to another artist as I was wondering how to begin the process of getting a copyright. I also was wondering about cost since that is important to me.

Thanks so much, Brian! This occurred 10 years ago, and it was a situation where I had to decide at the time whether I should rock the boat more vigorously, or just conclude that the damage was very limited in scope and move on. I was also doing this illustration work for my graduate advisor who was one of the team that made the discovery, and I decided it was better for he and his colleagues not to give these obscure sites the attention they were craving. There was enormous mainstream media coverage of the fossil at the time, and these were the only 2 problematic instances. But I wholeheartedly agree, should something like this happen again, I would do exactly as you suggest. Thanks again for your attention to this form of copyright infringement, which is relevant to anyone doing commissioned work for another party.

Esther J. Williams
Brian, thank-you for this interesting article on copyright infringement. Sometimes it best to read about the details in laymen`s terms as you put it. Reading it on the legal side is massively confusing and headache country.
I have dealt with a copyright/trademark lawyer before and they are pretty cut and dry, not willing to give too much info unless you pay them 300 hundred dollars an hour.

Crystal Rassi
As much as I like the idea of copyright, I think the main reason holding artists back is the costs involved. I know I certainly can't pay a lawyer for this issue. A copyright registration is at the bottom of my list of priorities when considering the health and safety of my family.

But here's some things I've been pondering....If an artist puts the copyright symbol on the painting, does that scare off any infringers? If an artist puts a disclaimer on their website about copyrights, does that deter infringers? Are these tactics illegal if the artist doesn't have those artworks registered?

And lastly, I've been told to lower the resolution of all pictures one posts or websites to avoid the use of the image directly by an infringer. The only problem with this is that potential collectors may think the artist isn't a professional if poor quality pictures are posted.

Are there any other low cost tactics that one can use to protect their ideas and artwork?

Brian Sherwin
Crystal, the cost is not so bad if you register a group. You have to figure that for the cost of a pizza, a few packs of cigarettes, and a couple of cups of coffee you can protect the business aspect of your art. Thus, it is an investment for your family.

That said, Im not suggesting that artists should register every work of art that is created. However, if you are making profit off of an image in some way it is probably best to register it-- because if you are making profit from it there is no doubt that someone else will see the marketability of the image. It is about being prepared.

A work of art is copyrighted from the moment it takes tangible form-- but it must be registered if you want the legal boost warranted by having it registered. The fact of the matter is that copyright infringers-- specifically those who are making profit off of images-- most often know of copyright law and dont care if you include a symbol or disclaimer. They know that most artists dont register copyright. Thus, they know that most likely their only risk is losing the profit they made.

When works are registered before the infringement occurs infringers can take a heavy blow from statutory damages-- which can be very high if the judge desires to set an example. They run the risk because they know that most artists fail to register their artwork-- and that most likely if an artist discovers the infringement they did not register the copyright before the infringement occurred, which limits what an artist can go after in court.

Keep in mind that if the works are registered the infringer has the burden of proving that he or she had the right to use the images. Some infringers will try to suggest fair use-- but, specifically when copyright is registered, the artist has control over derivative works-- so fair use does not always work well as a defense unless the artwork in question is renowned. It all boils down to the mercy-- or lack thereof-- of the court as well. Registering copyright places the ball in your court, so to speak.

Lowering resolution can be a good tactic-- but at the same time a skilled tech-head can work around that as well. If registering copyright is not an option for you the best advice I can give is to try your best to have your artwork published in physical form-- be it in a local newspaper or some other physical form of publishing. Try to do things that establish a date to go by that shows that you had ownership of the work at that specific time.

I say that because if works are not registered you will have to prove ownership and show that you had ownership prior to the infringement. Obviously that can get complicated fast-- which is why registering a group is a great option. It is a good investment to make in general. Also, keep in mind that if works are registered they can be protected for several decades after your death. Thus, your family can benefit from that.

Technically ideas cant be copyrighted. If you paint a dog standing on a blue ball with a skeleton dancing next to it you cant really do anything if someone does a painting of a different breed of dog standing on a red ball with a ghost flying next to it, or a cat standing on a yellow ball-- and so on. Sure, you can try to make a case against it-- but again, it is up to the judge and jury.

As for artwork itself, the specific image, can be copyrighted-- so if someone paints a dog standing on a blue ball with a skeleton dancing next to it after you have already registered your painting of a dog standing on a blue ball with a skeleton dancing next to it you have much more room to move in court.

So registering-- to a point-- even protects you from people making original art that is close to original art that you have already registered. Especially if you can prove that the other artist had direct access to your image prior to creating their own version of it. Keep in mind that it also boils down to if the person is making profit or not as well as the mercy of the court.

You also have moral rights as well. Thus, if someone uses an image of your artwork on a website that focuses on a topic or social issue that you dont agree with-- or even if you agree with it, but do not feel that your art should be used in that manner, you do have some control over that. Again, in situations like that a hint of going public with the infringement can work wonders.

That is why websites where you can upload images of your artwork if you chose, take Facebook for example, have strong terms of service in order to protect themselves if an artist who uploaded an image decides to seek legal action if the image he or she uploaded on the site shows up on the front page of the site or anywhere else on the site. Side note: the TOS for sites like Facebook also point the finger of blame at individual users who upload images of your art without your permission. In other words, you cant go after Facebook per se, but Facebook would most likely hand over information about the user who uploaded your art if it is a legal matter. That is also why sites like Facebook often ask if you are the owner of the content before uploading.

Just so you know-- you cant copyright your artistic style either. For example, if you have a unique way of painting you cant copyright it. If someone else masters the same ”?look”™ or ”?feel”™ of your art the most you can hope for is that the artist will acknowledge you as an influence.

Forgive me for being windy.

Everything I put on the Internet, email and newsletters is a 72 dpi. I don't know if that helps or not, but I've been told to do it.

Spencer Meagher
I wonder what percentage of professional artists copyright their art in some fashion?

Terry Krysak
If someone is selling products on the internet, you can launch a DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act)notice in the US.

You need to know the name of the hosting company that host's the website that is selling the product, and serve the notice on them.

Here is a link to an article on how to do that.

On my blog I use My Free Copyright which is free.

Terry Krysak
Sorry, I should have said in Line 1
DMCA Takedown Notice.

When served correctly the web hosting service will usually take down the material from the website.

Chuck Roach
I was a corporate attorney for many years and worked a little in the copyright and patent area. Due to changes in federal law, all paintings are automatically copyrighted, without the necessity of putting the "circled c" and date after your name. The issue is when the work was created. An easy solution, at little expense, was suggested to me. Simply take a photo of your work, put it into an envelope, postage paid, and mail it to yourself. Keep it unopened in a safe place in the event arises to prove your creation date via the postmark.

Attempting to sue someone for copyright infringement is so expensive that the attorney fees would be many times greater than the probable value of most works of art.

Helen Horn Musser
Chuck, thanks for the tip about mailing to yourself. That is a neat idea. I have heard others say the lawsuit would be to expensive to do. I guess it would depend on how many images were stolen and reproductions made.

Jo Allebach
I never thought copyright was really no big deal. Now I see that I should take action and make this a serious priority. Thanks for the info.

Brian Sherwin
Chuck, the envelope idea is like the method I mentioned that is often used by comic book artists and writers. It can work-- and it is better than nothing if you do not register. However, it should be noted that it does come with some problems. For example, the infringer”™s legal team could suggest that the envelope was tampered with. That is why registration, hands down, is the best route to take.

You said, “Attempting to sue someone for copyright infringement is so expensive that the attorney fees would be many times greater than the probable value of most works of art.” That is very true, if the copyright is NOT registered prior to the infringement. To bring about a copyright infringement lawsuit you have to register the artwork in the first place-- but if it is registered after the infringement occurs what an artist can do legally is limited compared to what could happen if the copyright was registered prior to the infringement.

If the copyright is registered prior to the infringement the infringer is has the burden of proving that he or she was allowed to use the image. Furthermore, if the copyright is registered prior to the infringement the infringer will end up having to pay the legal expenses of the copyright owner. Again, that is why registration is important-- and why it is important to register before someone infringes upon your art.

If copyright of the artwork is registered prior to the infringement the infringer faces well over $100,000 per infringement. If you have a strong case most attorneys will let the standard $5,000 to $10,000 slide because they know they will get that and more from the infringer in the end. The truth is that an attorney will normally not take the case unless they know it is a sure win.

Let”™s say you don”™t register until you are aware that copyright infringement occurred-- and lets say that the infringer was selling coffee cups using your images. In that scenario the artist would only be able to go after the profit made from the coffee cups. The artist would also have the burden of paying legal fees. However, if the copyright was registered prior to the infringement the artist could also receive over $100,000 for each image that was infringed upon and the burden of legal fees falls on the infringer. Again, it also boils down to the judge and jury. Point blank-- it is best to register before being infringed upon.

Chuck Roach
Well stated, Brian. Attorneys who are willing to take a case on a contingency fee basis will only do so if the defendant has money to eventually pay. In the case of copyright infringement, the defendant would have to be a large company with assets not generated by profits from the infringement, or a small company or person who actually did make a lot of money from the infringement.

My experience has been that an infringer will agree to stop the infringing action upon notification by letter from an attorney, which is a good result. You, the artist, have then received some free exposure of your art to the public. As a consequence, the artist is in a better position to market the painting to parties in the position of the original infringer. So, infringement can be a good thing if caught and addressed in a timely and smart manner. In fact, I would be greatly pleased if a few of my paintings would be infringed upon so that I could then take advantage of the exposure. Infringement would mean that my artwork is good enough to have commercial value, thus opening some doors of opportunity.


Sharon Weaver
Copyright infringement is a very expensive and time consuming problem. Even with copyrights in place, the expense of a law suit is enormous. For most artists the cost would be prohibitive so really consider whether your art would warrant the added expense needed to get copyrights. Would you actually go forward with a law suit? Would it really be worth the time, money and aggravation? Is that how you want to spend your time? There is the chance that your image will go viral and make someone else millions but what are the odds of that happening? There are many things to consider.

Brian Sherwin
Sharon, I stand by my position on the matter. Artists who show their artwork online tend to be interested in selling online or using their online activity to promote physical venues for selling art. Thus, the fact that so many have marketing in mind it does not make sense to me for an artist to not pursue copyright registration of their popular works of art. Again, I'm not suggesting to register everything-- though if an artist wanted he or she could register a collection if the rules are followed.

Currently it costs $35 to register copyright online. I know times are tough-- but I also know that people tend to pay way more per month on coffee, eating out, entertainment, and so on. If you can afford to rent a few movies each month, buy soda and snacks a few times per month, and buy all the other little things that add up by the end of the month-- well, there is no excuse not to register copyright of works of art that you feel clearly show the years you have put into your artistic practice.

If an artist is serious about his or her art it just makes sense to me that he or she would want-- at some point-- to protect his or her art as much as possible. Especially if he or she has made profit from his or her artwork.

If a copyright infringer finds out that your artwork is registered he, she, or the company will most likely settle out of court. They might even be willing to give credit where credit is due and bring you into the fold as part of the agreement. The point is that registration places the ball in YOUR court.

Think of it this way-- if you are driving with a bad tire there is a chance that nothing bad will come of it. Many people drive for decades without being in any form of vehicle accident. That said, there is always the chance that the tire will cause an accident-- or that something else will go wrong. People spend how much to replace bad tires? How much on car insurance? We endure both of those expenses to protect ourselves and others who travel with us. With that in mind-- registration of copyright protects artists, their family, and their collectors-- it protects everyone who travels with us, so to speak.

Charlotte Herczfeld
Brian, thanks for the ole stamped envelope trick! I'll use that.

Carol Schmauder
I was going out of town when this article was posted and didn't have time to read it. I am glad I saved it to read later. Thank you for all the "food for thought".

Richard Christian Nelson
Brian thanks for bringing up this important subject. The world seems to be moving toward a freer interpretation of ownership in some ways. It's good to stay informed on this issue as things change, and to formulate a plan that works.

Donna Robillard
Thank you for this very informative post. I have copyrighted some of my art, and your discussion really does share the reasons why it should be copyrighted. Yes, it does take some time and some money, but it is well worth it.

Brian Sherwin
Richard, the free interpretation of ownership that you mentioned concerns me. I've long been a hardcore advocate for copyright and ownership in general. I realize that many people feel that art, in general, should be free-- but things are very different today. Art can be a business today more than it has ever been-- we have to fight for our rights.

Martha Irigoyen
Thoroughly enjoyed reading all comments and information provided. I am an artist (although no website yet) and also a beginning writer, so am glad to have found this information. I knew that any art work whether written or painted, etc., was protected via the fact that it was produced, however, I did not think of registering with copyright also. If you've seen Wyland's t.v. show, he always remarks on including the "C" copyright sign by his signature.

Brian Sherwin
Martha -- in my opinion people should assume images are copyrighted in the first place. Unfortunately, if someone wants an image bad enough they will use it no matter what information you provide.

Martha Irigoyen
So true, Brian. Via newscasts, we know books and music have been copied also. I agree that everything should be copyrighted. Thanks for your response.

Wilma Schaffert
Brian, I enjoyed all of the comments concerning Copyright Registration. One item that was not discussed is the years of an artist's copyright.
Thanks to Walt Disney's company, an artist has
the right to their work for the life of the artist
plus 70 years instead of the prior numbers which was 50 years. Does anyone know of an artist whose
number of years was the deciding factor in the judgement of their copyright infringement?
Thank you for your response. Have a super day!

What can be copyrighted?
Books, music, art, academic papers etc can be copyrighted. Though copyright does not protect ideas, it protects the original expression of the idea. However copyright rules vary for some works like designs and drawings used industrially. Any work, as soon as it is created, is automatically copyrighted. However it is safe to register the work or papers at the copyrights office. Those who wish to have their copyrights on public record often register their work and obtain a certificate of registration.

At Your U.S. Copyright will be registered in a matter of minutes through our online form submission processing, 256 bit encrypted SSL secure server. You will receive you Copyright Documentation in an e-mail, and by first class USPS government mail.

Hi Brian thanks For yours advice according to my opinion this post is very informative and helpful for every one

and i am asking to my friends read carefully you can surely enjoy

i am waiting for yours for yours next post.THANKS

My favorite story involves producing the GI Joe action figure overseas.

Right after the figures came into the stores in the US (about 1964), there was a copycat doll on the market.
The Hasbro sculptors had one of the thumbnails put on backwards (an accident they kept for copyright purposes). They were able to receive damages from the Chinese company based on this detail.

Not to helpful for 2-d art though.....

Write another comment . . .

Wonderful post!! The above mentioned reasons reflect the necessity of copyright registration. Also sometimes it becomes difficult to differentiate between the copied work and the original one; therefore copyright registration of the original work is required.

Nimi Trehan
Thanks a lot for the info. on registering copyright on line at Does anyone know if this copyright holds just as well in the court as going thru an attorney, which of course will be a lot more expensive.

Nimi Trehan

Rizwana A.Mundewadi
Thank you so much! awe sum info! very important!!!


FASO Resources and Articles

Art Scammers and Art Scam Searchable Database


FineArtViews, FineArtStudioOnline, FASO, BrushBuzz, InformedCollector, BoldBrush
are Trademarks of BoldBrush Technology, LLC Licensed to BoldBrush, Inc. 

Canvoo is a registered trademark of BoldBrush Technology, LLC Licensed to BoldBrush, Inc

Copyright - BoldBrush Technology, LLC  - All Rights Reserved