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  • Writer's pictureCassandra L. Wilkinson

Initial Steps to Protecting Your Art

The internet is one of the best means to share your art work and to gain exposure. However, your work on the internet is also extremely susceptible to copyright infringement. There are a number of quick and simple initial steps to protecting your intellectual property.

Protection against Copyright Infringement

Copyright protection exists for original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.

Basically, your “idea” must be “tangible.” Since copyright protection arises as soon as original authorship is fixed in a medium, unregistered work must be diligently protected. You must keep digital or physical records to prove the work as your own.

A few safeguards to protect your work from copyright infringement include:

Register Your Work – The best way to protect yourself is to register your artwork with the Copyright Office of the U.S. Library of Congress because registration informs the world that you own the work and all the rights of ownership. Although you can register a copyright at any time, prompt registration or “timely registration,” allows for easier recovery from an infringer. If registration is made within three months after publication of the work or prior to an infringement of the work, statutory damages and attorney’s fees will be available to the copyright owner in court actions. Otherwise, only an award of actual damages is available. Timely registration creates a legal presumption that the copyright is valid. If made before or within five years of publication, registration will establish prima facie evidence in court of the validity of the copyright and of the facts stated in the certificate.

Registering your work requires (1) a completed application form, (2) a nonrefundable filing fee, and (3) a nonreturnable deposit—that is, a copy or copies of the work being registered and “deposited” with the Copyright Office. Online registration through the electronic Copyright Office (eCO) is the preferred way to register basic claims for literary works; visual arts works; performing arts works, including motion pictures; sound recordings; and single serials.

Once the registrar’s office examines your application, they will send you an official certificate of registration, which serves as documented evidence of your copyright. The certificate will also be filed online as a matter of public record.

Digitally Imaging Your Work – Having a digital library of your work will save you a lot of time and effort for proving your ownership in the event of a copyright infringement. The photographs metadata typically stores the date and time the picture was taken, and this data can be used in court. Note: if your art includes characters that can easily be replicated or borrowed, or images that are iconic, then you should spend more efforts protecting that work since it will be easier to reproduce and has more market appeal that is usually followed by copying. Registering your work is best.

Read Terms and Conditions – If you promote your work on social media outlets like Instagram, Facebook, etc., then copyright infringement of those images are more likely. Whenever you post artwork to other websites, make sure to read terms and conditions to determine copyright protection your art has. Watermarking your images decrease the likelihood that somebody may steal those images. However, federal registration gives protection on those websites.

A few ways to protect your art on your website:

Watermark Your Work – Watermark is a logo or name that is placed on top of an image. Since the water mark overlays the image and a person is less likely to want an image with someone else’s logo/name, the likelihood of stealing is greatly diminished. Watermarking tells the viewer that the work is protected by a copyright and will also help in a court case since the other artist cannot claim “innocent infringement” (copied unknowingly). When creating a watermark, use a copyright symbol and your name or logo, and place your watermark visibly across the image. Note: You can create the copyright © symbol by pressing down the “Alt” key and typing “0169” (on Windows) and by pressing down the “Alt” key and typing “g” (for Mac).

You can create a watermark using either Word or Photoshop, but there are also many other programs out there.

Creating a watermark from a picture in a word document:

Convert Your Images to Flash – You may convert your images into a flash slideshow before positing it online. This makes it impossible to simply copy and paste the image.

You can convert your images to flash using Photo Flash Maker Free:

Use Low Resolution Images – A small and low-resolution image is typically undesirable since enlarging it will pixelate the image. Keep your original, high-resolution images and make a separate website-ready folder with copies of the images. Covert the copies into low-resolution. You can use pretty much any image-editing software for resizing purposes. Typically, you can select the image and click on the “Edit” option on the toolbar or right-click on the image, click “size” or “resize,” then select the pixel specifications.

Routinely Check for Unauthorized Use of Images – You can use Google Image search to find identical copies of your photo posted on the internet. Just go to , click on the camera icon in the search bar, paste the image URL if it is online or upload the image, and then click search. The search results will tell you if the image appears on other websites.

Disable Right Click with Javascript – You can also disable the right-click feature on your website. However, one can simply use the screen-capture feature on a computer via the “PrtScn” button. Also, disabling the right-click feature may have a negative impact since it makes your webpage less user-friendly.

However, if you’d still like to disable the right-click feature, you can use:

Please note, the website links and products are not affiliated with HJKW Law. Be sure to exercise caution when downloading any third-party programs from the internet.

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