Every time you capture a photograph, it becomes automatically copyrighted. However, the ability to seek monetary compensation for any misuse of that photo hinges on your ability to prove your ownership. In many cases, though, intellectual property lawyers are reluctant to engage unless the image has been officially registered with the US Copyright Office.
Copyright, in this context, safeguards creative works, distinct from trademarks and patents which respectively protect symbols and innovations. Registering a copyright brings significant legal advantages to photographers, notably the ability to claim statutory damages, which can amount to as much as $150,000 per instance of infringement.
When an image is not registered, it does not qualify for statutory damages. Nevertheless, the aggrieved party can pursue actual damages and even the profits gained from the unauthorized use of the image (which can sometimes surpass the statutory limit). The compensation amount can vary and is contingent on a judge’s interpretation of the intentionality of the infringing party.
For instance, if a publisher incorporates your unregistered image of a picturesque sunset in a magazine, you might only be entitled to a modest sum, often inadequate to cover legal fees. Conversely, if the image is properly registered, the potential statutory damages could reach up to $150,000.
Statutory infringement penalties are calculated on a per-image basis, meaning that even if multiple instances of infringement occur, only a single award is granted. If the unscrupulous publisher employs your beautiful sunset image in both a brochure and an advertisement, you can claim a maximum of $150,000 in statutory damages, not $300,000.
Moreover, if the unauthorized use stems from a single magazine or website, only one statutory damage award is available. For example, if your image of a serene sunset is taken from your website and featured in an advertisement, the potential compensation remains capped at $150,000.
Undoubtedly, registration bestows substantial benefits. Hence, it’s advisable to consistently register your images. Our copyright office services are at your disposal for this purpose. At Westlord & Associates Legal Inc., our Copyright team comprehends the nuances of copyright law and collaborates closely with clients on an array of copyright-related matters. Our proficient team is fully equipped to address your complete spectrum of copyright needs. We routinely assist clients in the registration, protection, and enforcement of their copyrights across various creative forms through the U.S. Copyright Office.