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Thursday, May 1, 2014

Art Licensing: Tips on Registering Art with the Copyright Office by Artist Jill Meyer

Copyrighting your art is important to protect your rights as attorney Joshua J Kaufman points out in his article “Filing Copyrights: How and Why or Just Do It”. But, many artists fail to do it because it takes time, they do not know how to do it, or they feel it is too expensive. Because of the expense, artists are now filing copyrights of their art quarterly as a collection (group). Then when, an image or collection is licensed they register it separately so that they may be awarded more statutory damages if they need to sue for infringement. Joshua mentions in his article how to file for a copyright through the mail. Below are tips by licensed artist Jill Meyer on how to file via the Internet.

Tips to Register Your Images with Little or No Screaming
by artist Jill Meyer
Jill Meyer art & design

Registering images with the US Copyright Office, whether online or through the mail, has always been somewhat of a challenge. I’m going to give you some tips to help make that journey a little easier, and hopefully keep your frustration level low enough so that the necessity to scream is minimal or non-existent.

I can only speak from my own experience, so that is the only perspective you will be reading about in this article. Hopefully you will be able to extrapolate from my experiences and apply that to your own situation.

I use a Mac, and will necessarily be giving you the directions that work for my computer. This post will only be about registering online at eCO (electronic copyright office).

Preparing Images
You will first need to prepare your images for uploading to the eCO website. I do all of my images at 300 dpi in Adobe Photoshop. I batch process* the images with the extension .jpg and I make them 2 inches on the longest side. Then I make a .zip file** of the images so that I can register them as a group. I name the file with the EXACT name I will use to register it. Do not use any apostrophes, ampersands, etc. ($, %, &, *, #) in the name of your file or in the name of the work you are registering. For example, if you are registering a group by number, name it Group 3 and not Group #3.

*How to Batch Process Files in Photoshop
**How to Zip Files in Mac OS X

What Browser Should You Use?
The eCO site is very particular about the browser that is used, and many browsers will not work on it. If you are not aware of this, you will quickly reach a scream-worthy moment in the process. Don’t ask how I know! I learned the hard way that I need to use Firefox to register, and I need to disable the pop-up blocker as well.

User ID
If this is your first time registering online, you are a new user and you will have to set up your account with a Password and User ID. And, you will have to give answers to some questions that you will be prompted to answer should you forget your password. Do not forget your Password or User ID, once you have them and they have been accepted. Write them down and keep them in a folder (under lock and key if necessary) with your copyright material, so that you will NEVER have to deal with this web site to retrieve or set a new password or user ID.

User ID Requirements
• User names must be at least six characters.
• User names must contain only letters and numbers, not special characters such as apostrophes, ampersands, etc. ($, %, &, *, #)

They have even more requirements for a password. I can hardly wait for you to read all of them, and then figure out a password that will fulfill their requirements. Are you ready?

• Minimum password length must be 8 characters and consist of at least 2 alpha characters, 1 number and 1 special character (but not an ampersand - &).
• A password must have no consecutive repeated characters.
• A password must not include your user name or any part thereof.
• A password must not include the names of a spouse, children, pets or one's own name.
• A password must not include any regional sports teams or players.
• A password must not include any office symbols.
• A password must not include your social security number or any subset of your social security number that is more than a single number.
• A password must not include words that can be found in any dictionary, whether English or any language.
• A password must not be any of the 11 most recently used passwords for the account.

Since they seem to specify everything else, it’s surprising that they don’t require your blood type, your mother’s maiden name and the combination to your safe deposit box!

Follow the rest of the on-screen instructions to set up your account.

If you are the type of person that reads instructions before the fact, then by all means read the eCO FAQs, eCO Tutorial and eCO acceptable file types.

Logging In
It is really a good idea to Log In when the site is online and available, which is most of the time. But, just to be sure you keep your frustration level to a minimum, I’ll make you aware that they are usually available 24 hours a day, except for routine maintenance every Sunday from 12:00 midnight to 6:00 AM Eastern Time.

You will be registering work in Visual Arts. As you complete each necessary section, a box on the left of the screen will check off that section to let you know it has been completed. The individual screens will lead you on to the next section of the application.

While the site is has been regularly updated and simplified, it is still difficult. But, progress is progress. One of the new (to me) features is the “Add Me” button. Instead of having to continually write in your name and/or address information, you can just click on the “add me” button, and the information is copied in automatically. When you have completed filling in all of the information required in a section, you click on ”continue”. One would think that this would bring you to the next section, but it does not! It brings you back to the screen for the beginning of that section, and to move to the next section, you need to press continue once again! After doing this 3 or 4 times, it can be maddening! This is a feature that I find useless and frustrating. However, I have to factor in the knowledge that the entire site used to be like this and much worse, so I try to stay calm and deal with it.


When you have finished the application, you will need to pay before you upload your .zip file of images. DO NOT use any spaces between the numbers on your credit card. Trust me on this one, and omit the spaces.

After you have paid you will be prompted to upload your images. Be sure the .zip file has exactly the same name as the group you are registering. Wait until the upload is completed and then follow the directions to complete the application. You should immediately get receipts and confirmations in your e-mail from the US Copyright Office. The certificate will eventually arrive by snail mail.

Congratulations, you have just registered your images with little or maybe no screaming! Take a final deep cleansing breath. Namaste.

Your comments are welcome. Click on the comments section (below) to write your comment. Note: Some people have a problem in leaving a comment. The most successful method is to comment as Name/URL (your name and website or blog with a "complete" URL address).


  1. I only had time to skim this, so I apologize if I'm repeating information. Does everyone know that starting today, the price for registering a group of artwork online has gone up to $55?

    1. $55 is correct. Just did it this morning (May 1st).

      BTW - The process was much better than I expected. It's really quite straight forward. Image preparation was the most time consuming part for me.

  2. Thanks for posting Jill's tips, Joan, and thanks for writing them, Jill. Yesterday, before the price change, I succeeded in registering without even muttering under my breath because I'd followed your suggestions, Jill, offered on another site. I missed the "Add Me" option so did have to retype my info all the way through. Even though I'd read the warning on the site, I took a chance and filed via Safari on a mac. Since I received a confirmation email, I assume all is OK.

  3. Excellent info, thank you for sharing it with all of us! This is exactly the kind of detail people need to know.

  4. Fabulously useful for the newcomer! Also Thanks for intro to Josh Kaufman.

  5. This is wonderful. I have been looking at the site for a couple of days trying to get this kind of information. It is greatly appreciated!

  6. Thanks for the great info.I am about to file a collection created in Ai , and am wondering if I can use .jpeg files without batching them in Ps?

    1. It is not a matter of how you process your jpgs as long as they are jpgs! I make a zip file of my group of jpgs so that it is more efficient, and it will upload more quickly.
      Hope this answers the question.

  7. Thank you Jill, yes, and your post is immensely helpful!

  8. Thanks so much Jill. I was able to use Safari and uploaded my images as .pdfs as the pieces were created in Ai. I used artboards to have all images in one place. Wishing a great creative day to all.