Have you registered your Copyright? No? Why not? Do you feel it’s unnecessary because you own the copyright as soon as you press the shutter? While this is true there are some important facts you must consider:
If you register you are entitled to sue for attorneys fees as well as punitive damages, not simply compensation for the usage.
A lawyer will be more willing to take on your case on a contingency basis because of this, this means no cost to you if the case is won (which is nearly guaranteed if registered).
If you don’t want to deal with taking a case to court you now have big leverage to get the infringer to pay licensing fees they should have paid in the first place. You can tell the infringer that you have the copyright registered and that it will be a federal case, once they talk to their lawyer and realize how much a federal case will cost them they will gladly pay you usage fees.
I know this information has already been covered all over the place, the point of this post is to bring awareness to those of us that have made the mistake of publishing images without registering and bring some clarity to published vs. unpublished and how to register these properly. In my search I found very little information about this and most of it was speculation.
I was one of the many photographers (the vast majority in fact) that did not have my images registered, at first I didn’t think it was necessary, but after researching the subject I realized it was extremely important. I still put it off for a long time because of the confusion surrounding it though, I couldn’t get a clear answer on what was considered published and how to register.
After talking with the Copyright office they have assured me that photos posted on my website that are for sale are considered published and photos posted on other websites (flickr, google+, 500px, etc.) are not considered published because they are not available for purchase on any of these sites, that is the key distinction; if they are for sale to the public they are published, if they are only being displayed to the public they are not published.
To register a group of published images this form must be usedhttp://www.copyright.gov/forms/formgr_pph_con.pdf
Which you can read more about here http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl124.html
It is possible to register these online through a special pilot program which you can read about here http://www.copyright.gov/circs/sl39.pdf, this is the method I used and it was a fairly painless process (just time consuming) everyone I worked with at the visual arts division were extremely helpful. The worst part of this process was creating a list of all the images with their title and publication date, thankfully this information was easy to find in zenfolio. I had 150 images to register from my website.
Of course the rest of your unpublished images can be registered via the normal method online, asmp has great instructions herehttp://asmp.org/tutorials/online-registration-eco.html
I plan to register any new images every quarter, there is a 90 day window to register unpublished work.
I hope you find this information useful and I ask you to please share this to raise awareness, there are far too many photographers that are not registering their images and it is having a negative effect on the industry.