United States Copywrite Law

This summarization is for limited reference only and is only a starting point. Conduct your own thorough research to determine your need for copyright registrations.

Why should you register your work with the Copyright Office?

The Short Answer: Registering your work with the Copyright Office is the only way to establish a prima facie case in court (which simply means, your copyright registration provides ample evidence of ownership in a copyright infringement dispute).

The Art Bistro has an excellent article on Copyright Registration Click Here


What if you sell your original art? Do you lose your copyright?

The answer is easy: NO.

For paintings, it works the same as songs, books, and other original creations:

If anyone writes a poem and publishes a copy of it, the copyright is not transferred.

Another example: When you buy a book or a music CD, there is nothing about the transaction that implies the author is selling the copyright also.

Your art image is the same. You are collecting money for your paint, canvas, time, talent, and a monetary profit; but the art image is copyright protected and no one can legally copy that image except you.


There are tremendous protections within the United States copyright laws.

The moment you make a tangible creation of the idea in your head (i.e., you create a painting, take a photo, write a sentence—a book), the U.S. copyright law is there to protect that tangible creation.

That copyright protection is valid even if you never obtain a copyright registration.


If you ever permit anyone to use your image, you must carefully write a contract that specifies how it will be published, where it will be published (geographical area, languages, etc), the start and end date, specify how you will be credited for the authorship of the work/image, the intended audience (you may not want your name and image appearing in certain magazines, ads, publications, or social venues that could cause you harm.), the payment terms, etc.


As seen below, our web pages have copyright banners. It makes everything look legally scary and official, and it helps us remember when this format version of the site was put on line.

However, it is not always a good idea to put a date on your art or prints (e.g., '05 ). That way you can sell the old with the new, and there is nothing on the art to cause a buyer to make distinctions.

Note: If you have dated an original, you can ask us to digitally erase the date from the file before prints are made.