How to Copyright Art Work and Paintings

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    • 1). Complete your work in a tangible form. This step is self-evident for a painting or a sculpture, and applicable for digital art as well--existence on a hard disk fulfills this requirement. At this point, you already own the copyright over your work, and filing a copyright is only necessary if you foresee an eventuality of suing over copyright infringement.

    • 2). Publish your finished work if possible. You can do this by distributing more than one copy of a work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease or lending. Though this is no longer a requirement for filing for copyright in the U.S., according to, it can be helpful to the process for multiple reasons including differences in the deposit amount between published and unpublished works, limitations on exclusive rights, and notice of year of publication.

    • 3). Register for a copyright online at the United States Copyright Office website. Online registration through the electronic Copyright Office (eCO) is the preferred way to register art work and paintings. To access eCO, go to the Copyright Office website and click on "electronic Copyright Office." Fill out all the forms and provide applicable proof for all sections. You will also need to submit the nonrefundable deposit.

    • 4). Register for a copyright with fill-in Form CO. Using 2-d barcode scanning technology, the U.S. Copyright Office can process these forms faster than paper forms completed by hand. Go to the U.S. Copyright Office and click on "Forms" to get Form CO. Fill it out, print it and mail it along with a check or money order and your nonrefundable deposit.

    • 5). Register for a copyright with paper versions of Form VA (visual arts works) and Form CON (continuation sheet for paper applications). You cannot find these paper forms on the Copyright Office website, however you can contact the Office at (202) 707-3000 and a staff member will send them to you by mail. Once these forms are filled out, mail them to the Office along with the nonrefundable deposit. Copyright registration is effective on the date the Office receives all the required forms and deposits.

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