ASMP Guide to Copyright Registration

Posted on 10/5/2010 by Susan Carr | Printable Version | Comments (2)

The copyright office tells us that only 5% of photographers register their images. ASMP wants to change that and has created an initiative called Registration ©ounts to create awareness of copyright issues, to encourage all photographers to register their work, and to provide the tools and information needed for registration.

Registering your work gives you the full benefit of the U.S. copyright law. Image creators may register their work in the U.S. and will need to do so in order to make a claim in the U.S. for copyright infringement. Listed below are ASMP’s list of Best Practices for registering your work. Richard Kelly and myself will also be conducting a seminar on “What Every Photographer Should Know About Copyright” at the PhotoPlus Expo in New York on October 28, 2010. Come and get answers to your questions.

Best Practices for Registering


ASMP encourages you to register all of your photographs prior to publication. This ensures you have the full weight of the law behind you and, additionally, the registration process is far easier and less expensive. These steps outline how to register "unpublished" work — our recommended best practice.
  1. Register your work before it is "published."
Published and unpublished works have to be filed in separate registrations. Defining what is "published" or "unpublished" can be a matter of interpretation, so the best method is to register your work prior to any distribution or other use

     2.  Create a thumbnail size digital file of each image you want to register.

The copyright office requires a "deposit" or copy of each image you register. We recommend a jpeg thumbnail that is approximately 600 pixels x 600 pixels. The key is that the image must be recognizable; for example, an intricate landscape image might need a larger file size than a traditional portrait

We recommend you use your established naming convention for each image file you are registering. Embed the registration number or date of registration into your digital file.

There is no limit on the number of photographs you can register in one registration

      3.  Put the thumbnails in a folder and create a Zip file.

Current maximum uploads are 11.3 MB for 56k modem and 405 MB for 2mbps Optical Cable. If the size exceeds the size allowed for your Internet connection, break the thumbnails up into multiple folders

      4.  Name the folder of images you are registering.

The name can be anything you like, but you should develop a system for your business that makes it easy for you to indentify which images are in a particular registration. ASMP recommends using the date and specific project name, for example "January 2009, ABC Company Annual Report." Or, if registering images from multiple projects and/or personal work, simply use the dates covered. For example, "200 unpublished images January 2009.

Do not call your registration a "collection," as this may have a negative impact on the independent economic value of your images should you end up in an infringement case.

       5.  Go to the Copyright Office's on-line registration system, eCO.

Mac users need to use Firefox browser

If this is your first time using the eCO system, you will need to register, creating a username and password. After you are signed in, click on "Register a New Claim" under Copyright Services in the right hand navigation

Read ASMP's step by step screen shot tutorial for tips on filling out the online application

       6.  Pay the registration fee.

Fee is currently $35 for online registration. Go here for ASMP's step by step screen shot tutorial on making the payment.

       7.  Submit the deposit requirement.

Upload the thumbnails you previously prepared in a ZIP file.
Go here for ASMP's step by step screen shot tutorial on uploading the images. You can use multiple upload sessions if necessary. The effective registration date is the date of the last upload record.

        8 . Receive your Certificate of Registration in the mail.

This can take months. You can check the status of your registration by signing into your account on the eCO system and going to "Open Cases" in the menu on the right.

Check out ASMP's how to register podcast.

Copyright © 2010 Susan Carr. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz


  • Fred Voetsch Posted Oct 5, 2010
    Excellent info. Thanks!

  • Larry Minden Posted Oct 5, 2010
    Jim & SS Readers:
    Better read up on some of the recent court decisions tossing out the validity of copyright registrations as many were undertaken following PACA Best Practices and found to be inadequate. For instance - in addition to depositing an image file for each registered image, the application itself apparently needs to include an itemized list of the title of each and every image to be registered. If you've not undertaken any registrations yet, it might even be a good time to wait a bit until the Copyright Office, PACA and other parties sort out the chaos this new precedent has set.

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