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What registering your art with the Library of Congress does for you…

Worried about copyright theftThere is a lot of confusion about copyrights… YES, your art is yours when you create it.  In many countries you don’t have to register your work to protect it.  In the United States, it is really important (in this artist’s opinion) to register your art with the Library of Congress.

Recently someone left the following comment on a past blog post on the topic:

My IP professor talked about needing registration to bring suit. So I asked what protections does one have if they don’t register then, because she had belabored the fact that post-Berne it was not needed. She answered, “the protections of copyright” which had left me perplexed.

I can totally see why the person is perplexed – the IP professor broke the golden rule – they pretty much said everything and nothing at the same time.

What does “the protections of copyright” mean and is it covered by the Berne convention or do you need to register with the Library of Congress?

Let’s start by saying I’m not an IP professor nor am I an attorney. But I’ve been in this business a while and discussed this topic with many of my fellow artists and IP attorneys.

Here are two reasons I believe you SHOULD register your art and not rely on “I made it, therefore I own the copyrights”

1.  Registering your work gives you a basis of proving that (a) the art is your creation and (b) when you created it.  If you get into a dispute down the road and someone says you copied them when it was the other way around, you might be able to show that your work pre-dated theirs…. that can be helpful.

2.  You have more legal recourse in the US when you have registered your work.  If you don’t register your art, the only thing you might be able to do if someone copies it and is making money by using it, is stop them.  You can’t collect your attorney fees if you win, damages or any profits they might have made if you haven’t registered your work.

Here are a few links if you really want to dig into this topic:

Library of Congress on International Copyright protection >> http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl100.html

The UK Copyright Service on the Berne Convention >> http://www.copyrightservice.co.uk/copyright/p08_berne_convention

Wikepedia and the Berne Convention >> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berne_Convention

To my way of looking at it, it is worth spending the time and money to regularly register my work.  It’s like insurance, hopefully I won’t need it but I’ll be glad I have it if someone uses my art without permission!

Here’s to your creative – and protected – success!

– Tara Reed

P.S.  Attorney Sarah Feingold wrote a great book about the process – Copyrights for Artists – you can learn more here

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