It is great to be able to look at social media and see plenty of great work by hobbyists. However many of those pictures are used without permission and people who are not the builder may be monetizing those photos. With little recourse to stop these people some builders simply never share their builds. We are exploring the possibility of copyrighting photos for the protection registering them offers.
The information here will be about applying for a copyright in the United States. First let me say this is not legal advice so please keep that in mind while reading. Part 1 of this blog is an overview to point out relevant information from the government website to help start out anyone interested in attempting to register. Please make sure you check out all the information on these sites so you can make an informed decision. Part 2 of this blog will cover our attempt to copyright a set of photos of a custom build.
Photographs are how many builds are shared online so I will focus on registering those. Videos are eligible for copyright too. Photos can be copyrighted in groups. There are separate group applications for published and unpublished photographs. The US copyright office handles registrations. The website and source of this information is https://www.copyright.gov/.
Benefits of registration
An easy benefit to exercise is the ability to make takedown requests. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act places a requirement on platforms where users can post. Platforms can have a registered agent to be contacted for copyright infringement claims. The platform will then get protections against liability for the infringement. Here is a link to information about this on the site: https://www.copyright.gov/dmca-directory/.
As an example here is Instagram’s help center information on reporting a copyright claim: https://help.instagram.com/277982542336146.
Because of international copyright treaties you get some protections in any country that has signed a treaty in common with the yours. In these cases enforcement is handled by the laws of the other country.
What you do not get
Registration is not guaranteed! You have to follow the guidelines for the application to insure your application is not rejected for an error. They do have a contact page so use it to get your questions answered. Also if what you are registering is too close to something already copyrighted you could be denied. You can search existing copyright records here https://cocatalog.loc.gov/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?DB=local&PAGE=First. You want to make sure that there will be no conflicts with something already existing. This search is text only.
You also do not get automatic protection. You have to police your copyrighted material yourself.
The Application Process
When you register you have to state that you are the author of the material being copyrighted. For photographs the person who took the photograph is the author. Photographs fall under the Visual Arts Works category. You could use the Single Application to apply for copyright on one photograph for $35. However the Standard Application will allow you to file a group of up to 750 photographs on one application for a filing fee of $55. That is a lot of pictures. See https://www.copyright.gov/rulemaking/group-photographs/ for more information.
Here is the fee schedule:
Here is a link to the basic requirements:
Let’s wrap here but please stay tuned for part 2 of this blog. I will go into detail on our experience applying and the results of the application.