Copyright Protection

There will be no video for this watercolor how-to art tip. I have had a rather lovely week, but it has been chock full. On Sunday last (Mother’s Day), we hosted my mother-in-law for a Mother’s Day party, in our home! It was the first time she was able to visit in over 15 months, due to the pandemic, since all in attendance are now (finally) fully vaccinated.

Monday, I painted a half sheet watercolor of my favorite ducks from the canal – a white pekin duck and his two hybrid male offspring.  I can’t show the painting yet, because… well, that will be the focus of this blog post – standby. I painted the ducks using a spontaneous pouring method. You can see the source photo below. I painted them in preparation for my pouring workshop coming up in a week or so.

Tuesday, I taught a class on Photoshop Elements at my studio, which was totally fun. All participants learned some exciting new skills – including me <smile>.

Wednesday, I went plein air painting with the Latimer Art Club. A group of about seven painters met at the River Fork Ranch Conservatory in Genoa. I was actually very pleased with my painting effort, but I can’t share it yet, because… well, that will be the focus of this blog post, right?

Thursday, my brother and I hopped in the new art mobile and traveled to Sacramento to see the American Watercolor Society Traveling show on display at the Sacramento Art Center. If you have an opportunity to go, I would make the effort. They have 40 paintings from this year’s AWS selected artists. Some wonderful watercolors, indeed.

Friday, I painted again in preparation for my watercolor pouring workshop, this time using a layered pour method. I interpreted my image of three goldfinches decked out in their bright yellow plumage for spring. See the source photo.

Saturday, I painted again using the layered watercolor pouring method, this time I pulled out my Brusho® pots. Brusho® is a watercolour crystals medium that has a range of bright and transparent colors, perfect for pouring in my opinion. This time I painted a scene from Montreal of a woman walking her dog. It is not finished yet, but I have good start. I can’t wait to get back at it today.

I had to stop painting to rush to a birthday party for my Little (Big Brothers and Big Sisters), followed by a graduation party for a fantastic young man, who had finished his degree in Education at UNR.

Whew! What a wonderful week, chock full of exciting stuff, art and otherwise. So you can see, no time for video editing. Instead I’ll talk about registering copyrights.

Most American artists feel their artwork is protected by U.S. copyright law once it is created. And that is true. However, if there is ever a dispute about a copyright, or if someone else uses your work or claims it as their own,  artists have little protection in the courts if it is not registered with the copyright office. I am by no means an expert on the process, but I have been registering my artwork with the copyright office for about 6 years now.

There have been lots of changes since I have been regularly registering my work. Now there is apparently a small claims court for copyrights (since the end of 2020)! Exciting news. Unfortunately, my dispute for 2015 is beyond the statute of limitations (3 years), so I won’t be able to take advantage of the new small claims option.

But to register your work, you will want to become familiar with “the rules”. Essentially we can register a creative work as published or unpublished. Once a work has been published, it can no longer be registered as unpublished. If there has been a print made and distributed of a piece of artwork, that is then a published work. There is some question about whether posting on social media, distributing in an email/text, or posting on a website constitutes publishing. Since it is unclear to me, I have decided not to print, post, or distribute an image of any work I create until after I have it registered with the copyright office. Why? Mostly, due to the difference in cost. I can register up to 10 unpublished works for $85 (all have to be unpublished, of the same type of creative work, and completed in the same year). We cannot register a group of published works, unless they are part of a set and can’t be sold individually – such as a set of calendar images. Published works have to be registered individually at $55 each. So, the choice is to spend $8.50 an image, or $55 an image. You can do the math.

So, once I have ten paintings, I register the titles and images with the copyright office, using the tool. Now that I have been doing it a lot, it is pretty routine, and I just include the cost of copyright registration in my painting prices. So far, I have registered 50 paintings in 2021. I don’t register everything – but definitely most of my work.

Next week, I may have the next group of 10 ready to register. Check my social media pages for the paintings associated with these source photos. Photographers can register a lot more than 10 unpublished images as a group. I sometimes register a group of photographs with the copyright office as well. Since most watercolor competitions require us to work from our own photographs, it is a good practice to protect your source photos as well.

Anyway, that is why I delay posting new works on social media or email, until I have them all “protected” with the copyright office.

4 thoughts on “Copyright Protection

  1. Carolyn Dixon

    Colleen, you crack me up! You generate so much art and information….it’s wonderful! Think of you often and all your output!

    1. reynolds Post author

      Thank you, Carolyn. I always love hearing from you. I’m glad I offered up your Sunday morning chuckle.

  2. Carol Deters

    Thanks for the information on copyrights..does putting a watermark signature across your published paintings carry any weight? I know several artists who do that but am wondering if that protects their ownership.

    1. reynolds Post author

      Hi Carol, Putting a watermark on an image does not provide any copyright protection. It may deter some amateur prospective thieves, but the pro thieves can eliminate a watermark in about 5 seconds (okay it might take them a minute). In my opinion, the best way to combat unauthorized saving and downloading of online images is to only post low quality images (72 ppi or less and small in size, like 9 inches or less on the longest side). If the quality is low, it is difficult to make a quality print or print products like cups, clothing, cards, etc. Of course, it doesn’t stop the forgers from stealing an idea.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *