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The Cost of US Photo Copyright Registration Increases on Feb 20th - Do You Register Your Photos?

Published: 06/02/2018
By: larry

Kerry in Iowa points out that:

It looks like beginning Feb 20th, 2018, we (US Photographers) will be limited to 750 photos per registration. (See: this page). Based on the number of photos I registered last year, the new rule is going to increase my registration fees this year by at least $110. I'm sure it will affect others as well.

As we've discussed in the past, Joel Rothman (IP Attorney) recommends that US photographers:

  1. use a written license agreement.
  2. put a copyright notice on all photos (where possible).
  3. apply digital watermarking and meta-data on photos
  4. register photos with the US copyright office.
  5. patrol the internet for copyright infringement violations.

The following poll is a measure of how many readers register their photos. What do you do?

[polldaddy poll=9340760]

7 comments on “The Cost of US Photo Copyright Registration Increases on Feb 20th - Do You Register Your Photos?”

  1. This is going to increase the fees I pay a lot and I'm going to have to spend more time selecting images to put into the "deposit" where I could just include everything before using a very simple preset in Lightroom to create small jpegs of all my work. I hope that lighting, camera settings, etc that might vary from frame to frames aren't going to be a factor nor the specific file name. I often will have several frames of the same composition as I'm waiting for lighting to change and while I may only use one in that sequence and only registering that image that all of the other versions will be considered as derivatives or some such.

    When I was shooting events for a magazine I might come back with 2000+ images over the course of a few days and it was simple to just register all of them. Now it's financial more difficult. Publications are paying much less than they used to and it can be tough to turn a profit on something if it's out of town and being shot on spec. Assignments are fewer now too so publications and news services aren't covering expenses unless something is really hot.

    It is about time to retire the old paper applications. I never use it and understand that it took a very long time to get the official registration document back. The surprising thing is that examiners are looking at the submissions. I thought that nothing was done with submissions other than archiving unless a case was brought in court and only then would a submission be analyzed to make sure it matched with the Copyright holders document and the item brought before the court. Interesting. It sheds some light on the 750 image limit. Maybe that can be lifted in the future and human examiners taken out of the loop. If Google image search can find matches in less than a few seconds, the Copyright office's archive should be at least as good at machine searches.

  2. I'm confused as didn't see any pricing on the link. Are they increasing the filing fee or is the cost increase based solely on the 750 limit which would require extra filings (or thin out what you upload). Does one really need to register a half bath, empty third bedroom or other low demand photo.

  3. Leaving out the rest of our photography business and how we treat those images - we always copyright our real estate photography images and then license them for real estate purposes under the control of the real estate agent and whomever she/he wants to share the license with as long as they get written permission from me. (I want to introduce my services to the person they share the image with - its a great referral tactic for me and in 99% of the cases none are shared other than marketing the home). We send all of our images for one job in one batch. Then if I have a shot I want to sell to someone else - I have the property release from the owner and the copyright and that image or video never goes to the agent but stays in my "stock" file. Again, about the only images of ours that are copyrighted and relicensed are the neighborhood or community photos. Just our own way of doing things.

  4. Copyright is just a (small) cost of doing business -- if your rates are so low that spending 8 cents per image ($55 / 750) is going to hurt your bottom line, well...

    And it's not clear to me why anyone would bother registering EVERY test shot or component shot (i.e. HDR or compositing) -- all you need to register is a final result (the image that gets delivered). Just dumping EVERYTHING blindly into a "copyright" folder wastes both your own time and that of some overworked underpaid person at the copyright office (and we all suffer as a result).

    The results of the poll so far are depressing...

  5. Scott, it's not an insignificant cost. For RE, I could just register my delivered images since I don't typically make any photos that I don't wind up delivering and it would not be a big deal. The issue is with other work I do. If I'm at a 3 day event with Apollo astronauts and come back with 1200 photos, the magazine I'm shooting for may only want 6-8 to fit with the story they plan to run. I still want to register the rest of the images so I can offer them for license as well and not have to check the registration status every time I get an inquiry and send out contact sheet. I also want to be able to display those images for people to know they are available. That's pretty risky to do with unregistered images. The easiest thing to do in the past was to just register all of the images after a first cull to dump garbage and know I'm covered. Now those 1200 images mean 2 registrations at $70ea ($140) which can be a fair chunk of what I was paid for the few I was able to license right away. I don't want to squander the opportunity to make all of the other images by limiting myself to just photographing the prime players.

    It also comes down to time. Again, for RE photos, It's easy to pull up my delivered images and output each job's worth to my Copyright folder since I'm doing that anyway and I have a preset for it in LR. I don't throw every frame in the registration folder since most of the time they are just intermediate set up photos as I build the lighting and exposure. Other sets of images don't have selections as well defined. The magazine might tell me they want to see the images of 3 astronauts and I'll do a little work selecting those but the rest might not get much attention other than some keywording. I would rather being doing something other than slogging through all of my photos and deciding which ones I'm going to register. Drive space is so cheap that I don't cut down photos very much. Yes, there is lots of worthless crap on my drives, but the upside is that I didn't spend a whole bunch of time dealing with it.

  6. I agree that the poll is depressing. When I relicense images to the trades and others, I make a lot more money per/image, per/hour since aside from a little more editing, it's pure gravy. When companies find they can just grab stuff from the internet for free with no consequences, it waters down the market. I've had a couple of flips that I photographed where the agent got their images for free by referring customers to me for which I pay a commission. I made more money on those jobs than an entire day of just shooting homes for agents.

    The slow season (if you have one) is a great time to work on a gallery of stock images and to find ways of marketing them. With very rare exceptions, kitchens and baths are my best movers. Detail shots of higher end fittings are popular for ad backgrounds.

  7. Scott and Ken, I think you both make excellent points. I am glad to see the USCO finally clarify the requirements for group registration of images. Previously, the only officially approved procedure for electronic group registration of published photos was through the ePilot program, which limited registrations to 750 photos and required titles and publication dates for each image to be included in the Contents Title fields (which were limited to 325 characters apiece)—if anyone wants to argue against that this was the only official way to do this, I am happy to forward the relevant USCO publications and redacted emails from the examiner assigned to my cases. It seems many people have successfully circumvented that process and still managed to get certificates back in the mail—case in point, I have had photographers tell me they were able to submit thousands of published photographs online, at once, for registration, which has never been an approved process.

    Scott, I agree with your statement regarding efficiency and only registering the final images, as well as the $0.08 per image being a good value in terms of the protections provided. That said, Ken's scenario brings up a problematic scenario for event photographers. I've also seen sports photographers and other high-volume photographers claim they will be severely impacted by this change. I think the USCO should have gone with one fee for 750 images or less, and another fee for 751 or more, or something of that nature. I think most of us would be happy to pay more if we knew we could just register all published work once per quarter. Adding $20 or $30 to compensate for the additional time involved in processing a high-volume registration seems a reasonable compromise.

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