The Law Dictionary

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

How to Copyright Artwork

No artist wants to spend his or her hard work and effort on creating a work of art only to have someone else try to claim it as his or her own. Copyrights are designed to protect people’s artwork, photographs and other ideas that they have created from other people infringing upon them. Generally, copyrights, once obtained, protect an artist’s artwork for the length of his or her life plus an additional 70 years. Copyrighting artwork is relatively simple to do once individuals know the appropriate channels to go through to do so.

U.S. Copyright Office

Although artwork is considered to be copyrighted upon its inception by the creator of the artwork, getting the work formally registered can give the artist legal protection. The U.S. Copyright Office is the office through which people must get their artwork registered. Artists must fill out an application that obtains their basic information such as their ages and dates of birth as well as information about the works of art that they are registering. They can fill the forms out in the traditional pen and paper manner and mail them in to the U.S. Copyright Office, or they can fill them out and submit them online via the U.S. Copyright Office’s official website.

Registering Artwork

Before artists can register their artwork, they must ensure that it meets the criteria for the type of copyright they are registering for. For instance, typically, artists register their artwork under visual arts copyrights, which applies to two- or three-dimensional works of art that can be fine art, applied art or graphic art. When artists submit their applications and pay the copyright registration fees either online or by mailing in their payments, they must also submit a copy of their artwork with their applications. Regardless of whether or not artists complete their applications online, they still must mail in hard copies of their artwork to the Library of Congress. Their copies will not be returned, though. Additionally, they can expect it to take at least four months before they receive their certificates of copyright in the mail after applying for their copyrights, although their copyrights are valid as soon as the Library of Congress receives their submissions.

Copyrighting artwork gives artists more tangible protection against other infringing upon their creations. With copyright certificates, artists have proof that the works in question were created by them and can only be used for the purposes that they specify.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter


Nothing implied or stated on this page should be construed to be legal, tax, or professional advice. The Law Dictionary is not a law firm and this page should not be interpreted as creating an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. For questions regarding your specific situation, please consult a qualified attorney.