The Law Dictionary

Your Free Online Legal Dictionary • Featuring Black’s Law Dictionary, 2nd Ed.

How to Copyright an Image

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People who have created images, such as photographs, graphic designs, paintings or other types of images, might want to ensure that their images are protected against infringement from other parties who would attempt to claim their images as their own. Copyrighting an image can provide the owners of the images with protection against infringement for the remainder of their lives plus 70 years. Obtaining copyright protection for an image is easier than ever nowadays thanks to modern technology.

Prepare the Image

In order to submit an image to the U.S. Copyright Office’s Electronic Copyright Office (eCO), the image must be in what is considered to be its “best edition.” The best edition of an image is usually the most widely distributed version of the image if the image is a printed image. If the image is not distributed, however, then an 8-inch by 10-inch glossy version of the image is generally considered the best edition. After the best edition is selected, then individuals should create an electronic file of their images. The eCO supports various file types, but the file sizes should not exceed 11.3 MB.

Register with the eCO

Individuals have to register with the eCO by filling out an electronic application. The application includes necessary information such as the owner of the image’s name, date of birth, contact number, the title of the image and other essential information about the image and owner. After the image is uploaded, a fee must be submitted to register the image. The fee must be paid online via a debit or credit card, and then a hard copy of the image must be mailed to the Library of Congress.

Certificate of Copyright

After mailing in the hard copy of their images, individuals can expect to receive their hard copies of their certificates of copyright in the mail within six months. It is also recommended that people mail their hard copies of their images in using mailing boxes instead of envelopes to ensure that the images don’t become damaged during transit to the Library of Congress.

Obtaining a copyright for an image is easier than ever with the U.S. Copyright Office’s online website. Alternatively, people can fill out the application forms by hand and mail in their applications the traditional way. However, if they choose to obtain their copyrights that way, they can expect it to take longer for them to receive their certificates of copyright.


This article contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. The Law Dictionary is not a law firm, and this page does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

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