Jack and Ed Answer More of Your ‘Copyright for Photographers’ Questions


Hi, Jack and Ed here. Seeing that there were a bunch of questions and comments from our Photoshop TV interviews in the last two weeks, we both thought we'd answer and clarify some of questions and comments. We'll be going into more depth to some of these questions in our two Photoshop World sessions in Las Vegas. And we'll also answer some in our upcoming column in PhotoshopUser Magazine.

As far as the paper VA form, it is being phased out. Bummer. It's easier than the online registration, in Jack's opinion. If you have any VA short forms you can still use them or you can still request them to be mailed to you from the copyright office. Jack keeps a blank VA PDF form on his computer. But you can no longer download the VA form from the Copyright Office site (www.copyright.gov). The Copyright office will still process VA forms, but the Copyright Office is no longer making the VA forms easily available in an effort to encourage online filing.

The eCO (Electronic Copyright Office) system, as the Copyright Office calls their online registration system, is improved and better than the first beta version used. But there is still have a problem with the number of files you can register if you are registering a very large number of files, as Jack usually does. Recently he registered 3,093 small compression JPEG files, that are compressed even more into a zip file, and they still total about 158mb. Jack's upload rate and their pipe in, was going to take 39 minutes according to the timer. There is a time limit of 30 minutes, not a size limit, but a time limit to your uploads. So after 30 minutes, the upload will time out. But what you can do is fill out all the info on the electronic form, make the payment of $35, and then printout a mailing sheet and mail in your images on a CD, along with a printout of the filenames.

The effective date of your registration will be the date they receive your CD, which the Copyright Office calls the "deposit." If you do mail in a CD, get a delivery confirmation or return receipt to confirm the date they received your image deposit. Again, that's the effective date of your registration, not the date they process it. But if you can upload your deposit within the 30 minutes, it does make it a lot easier. Make sure you have in your possession a copy and record of exactly what images you registered with which registration. As a teaser, in our Photoshop World session we'll go over why and when you might want to "pre-register" a copyright.

As far as printing the file names, Jack uses a freeware program called PrintWindow for Mac. The standard version is free and the advanced version is $20. Great program. You can find it at http://www.searchwaresolutions.com/ . Windows users should already have that ability to print file names in a folder.

With PrintWindow, just set the preferences, and drag and drop the folder of files on their icon. Jack sets it up to print 3 columns to a page with no icons. If you set it to only one column per page, you end up wasting a lot of extra paper and ink.

A great question asked was about "name collision" with the deposited images being registered, meaning duplicate file names because your camera counter went past 999 and started at 001 again and you're registering more than a thousand images from that shoot. Is there a problem with the files not being "uniquely named"? Yup, that's a problem. The files in a registration are required to be uniquely named. Personally, because it's so easy to batch rename files in Bridge or Lightroom, Jack renames all his images. Ed would rather see something that identifies the files a bit, in case you had to dig up a single file in litigation. Like "Italy_01.jpg, Italy_02.jpg", and so on. Or since the photographer asking is a wedding photographer, it would be good to have the wedding party's name in the file name like "JonesWed_01.jpg, JonesWed_02.jpg", and so on. It's a lot harder looking through lists of files named _K7M943_01.jpg. As Ed says the easier it is to ID the images in question, it will likely cost you less in lawyer fees and it makes it easier to prove that the image in question was actually part of the registration collection. Duplicate names may muddy the water.

Another really good question that always comes up in our lectures is the question, ‘is it better to register the original capture or the post processed file? What if you increase the color saturation, contrast, crop the file, make it black and white, and so on?’ Jack registers all his files as basically captured, with minimal work, like exposure correction in Lightroom's Quick Develop. The variations of the original are protected with what is known as the right of derivatives. You own the copyright to derivatives of your image. But as Ed likes to point out, if you really work a file a lot a, it falls under the Jewish Mother's Law of "It couldn't hurt." There is no penalty for registering the original capture and a greatly manipulated file. While not required, we'd encourage it. This way you're doubly covered. Like making a backup copy of a really great image.

Lastly, the 90-day grace period. As Jack loves to point out to lawyers, the statue states three-months not 90 days. Jack is right and those who say 90 days are technically wrong. The 3 months are computed as birthdays are, irrespective of the number of days in any given months. So in plain English, if the date of publication is Feb 10th the three-month window ends on May 10th regardless of the number of calendar days. The phrase 90 days has gained usage because if the registration is made within the 90 days it's always within the three-month window. So it is always safe to say 90 days. Also importantly, the three-month window does not pertain to all images. It is only for published images. Ed points out that many times, if your image is infringed, the infringement is likely the first publication or use of that image. So it is good practice to register immediately, don't wait to get a friend's advice on what to do. Time is of the essence. Register. Like they used to say about voting in Chicago, register your work early and often.

Ed Greenberg and Jack Reznicki

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