Your work is automatically "copyrighted" from the moment of creation, for the life of the artist, plus 70 years. But to have your work actually protected by copyright, you have to register it with the copyright office. At $35- a pop, it gets expensive. The other thing is, even though the work is copyrighted, the copyright office doesn't pursue legal action for you. All it does is provide proof.
I noticed searching that "legal zoom.com" seems to provide a copyright service. It might be worth checking out.
You don't NEED to register your copyright before you sell something. It is copyright when you make it, and that doesn't change when it is sold. It only changes if you sign a paper that gives them rights over it. Copyright law is almost always leaning in favor of the artist.
She needs to keep proof that the original is hers if she's worried about someone copying and publishing her work.
If she wants to register them, she can find out how here: [link]
Thanks, she didn't want to have her work made into a product, then find out, she needed a copyright, or something, to protect her. She has always loved taking photos and is absolutely amazing at it, but has only done it for her own benifit in the past.
=adamjamescooper is referring to what some call "poor man's copyright." It doesn't really work (at least not in the US) and you can find plenty of links that explain why not: [link] [link] [link]
Technically, once a work is created, the creator owns the copyright. There is no absolute need to register the copyright, but the creator can do so by contacting the US copyright office and directly applying. Again, copyright law states this is not necessary for ownership of the work. If your friend wants additional assurance, they can be sure to include a copyright symbol on the work, but this is not absolutely necessary either.
She can add copyright symbols and also disclaimers to state ownership without registering the copyright. Like I said, the way US copyright law is currently set up, she doesn't have to officially register copyright for the work to be protected. There are a number of reputable sites online that explain this in more detail, so you and your friend can do more research. The official US Copyright Office website is one of them: [link]
A trick my tutor taught me was to mail what you want to copyright to yourself. If its basically just to show you're the original owner if you mail the art piece to yourself once its gone through the post system it will have a time stamp and date on it. Leave it sealed until you come to the point of needing to prove you own the image in which you can give the unopened package to a legal adviser and they will use that as proof.
The other way of "officially" copyrighting is google copyright office (depending on your location you'll need to go to the right website) and after paying a fee your image is copyrighted under the owners name
Copyright may be copyright, but defending copyright isn't so simple.
Perhaps in the UK the "poor man's copyright" might be a valid form of record, but not in the US. And even in the UK, that's questionable. It's a fact that registering the work is not done in order to establish the copyright, and that's true under the Berne Convention and consistent for any country that follows it. However, in the US, registering a copyright is done in order to tell official bodies that you have a claim to that copyright and establish a public record of that claim. That means that, if you've ever actually sued someone over a copyright claim in the US, the very first thing that you have to do in order to bring the case to court is to register the work in question in order to establish it as prima facie evidence. It is required under US copyright law to file a registration in order to pursue the legal action. Period. That's statutory.
The US copyright office addresses the "poor man's copyright" specifically on its website:
"The practice of sending a copy of your own work to yourself is sometimes called a “poor man’s copyright.” There is no provision in the copyright law regarding any such type of protection, and it is not a substitute for registration."
The public record is what concerns the courts, not the timestamp, which is really the only thing that a "poor man's copyright" can adequately establish. The problem is that intellectual property disputes are so rarely as simple as establishing when the work was made. Most infringement takes place after initial publication, which also comes with a timestamp, making the act of mailing the work to yourself redundant. (Indeed, the only feasible instance I can think of in which a "poor man's copyright" style of timestamping could be useful is work produced and sold and not intended for publication, but which was published without the creator's consent.)
It's also important to know that, in the US, registering your copyright needs to happen before an infringement takes place in order to claim full damages. You must register your work if you intend to sue, no matter what, but the extent to which you may make a claim for damages is heavily influenced by when that registration was initially made. If you register the work before any infringements, you can sue for greater statutory damages plus attorney's fees. If you register your work after the infringement has taken place, you can't ask for attorney's fees and the damages you can ask for are severely lessened.
Also, the border-blurring nature of publishing work online further complicates matters. While you hold a copyright in the UK, and that copyright is acknowledged by the US, as you can see, the specifics of intellectual property protections are not universal. So, it might be perfectly reasonable to assume that, should you ever have your work infringed upon by a party in the US that has taken and used your work, which originated in the UK, in order for you to adequately defend your claim to the property, you'd still have to register the work. Certainly, the "poor man's copyright," which as far as I can tell, has limited capacity as evidence even in the UK, is not going to be recognized as being part of the public record by a US jurisdiction. This is important, since there are at least half a dozen international treaties and conventions in place regarding intellectual property law, and each one deals with jurisdiction and protection in different ways. There is no guarantee that what strategy might work in a local dispute is going to work internationally. Registering your work with your nation's copyright/IP office is the first firm step in maintaining your rights.