How to Obtain a Copyright for Digital Artwork

When copyright laws were first created, they were designed to protect the original works of artists and encourage technology and science.  However, with our new digital age, art and science are merged and digital art can be found in every aspect of our lives. From Internet to the family photo album, there is digital artwork.  For digital artisans, the risk of infringement is great.  The best way to prevent infringement is to secure copyright protection for one’s digital artwork.

What Constitutes Digital Artwork?

We live in a digital world! Our music is digital. Our pictures are digital.  Our communications are even digitized!  While copyright law does not define digital artwork, it implies that digital artwork is any original work of art that is in a digital form. As such, registering a digital artwork is the same as registering any other form of art, be it a book, picture, computer art, or sound recording.

Methods of Copyrighting Digital Artwork

Just like non-digital original works of art, obtaining a copyright for digital artwork is relatively simple.  Once a work is in a fixed form, by operation of copyright law, the artwork is copyrighted; however, artists need a higher level of protection to contend with possible infringers.

A more effective method than allowing copyright protection to rest on the simple creation of a work, some authors and creators rely on obtaining the “poor man’s copyright.” Under this method of copyright protection, a writer, musician or written art work creator, simply mails a copy of his or her work to his or herself.  Once the envelope is received, the creator simply does not open it and keeps it in a safe place.  The date stamp on the package is used to confirm and correlate with the dates of art work creation.  This serves as a corroborated level of proof of authenticity and exclusive right. This method does not create a public record and is not considered sufficient proof in a court of law of any superior right of ownership. However, it does stand as a record of when the work was created and that the work was somehow in the dominion and control of the proposed author.

There isn’t an online article, book or blog that does not have a copyright symbol somewhere in its pages.  Many people often recognize that publishing a work offers proof to the world that you are the author of a very particular work.  Publication serves as a mode of distribution, but also a record of your ownership.  It is a great way of obtaining some form of copyright protection for your work, beyond its simple existence.

When people consider copyrighting their work, registration often is the optimum option. Not everyone creates publishable works, such as books and articles, and even those need protection beyond pages of a journal or office of a publisher.  Registering your work with the United States Copyright, or other foreign Copyright Office, is a way of creating one of the highest levels of protection for your creative and original work of art.

Registration is basically easy and the United States Copyright offers several options.  Any writer or artist can go to  Once there, you can select to register through an entirely electronic progress, download forms from online and/or download forms and mail all items into the Copyright Office. For basic items such as books, artwork, or photographs, you can register your work similar to other art forms.  With either option, you will still need to complete a copyright registration application.  That application should identify your work, the date created, and appropriate contact information.  When sending in your fee, $35.00 (electronic process), $ 50 (CO process) or $ 65.00 (paper process), you should include copies of your work.  For the electronic process, you can upload your files to the Copyright Office for storage with the Library of Congress.  Once your application is received and processed, you will receive certification of your registration.

This method creates a clear public record which serves as substantial proof in court of your ownership and creation of a work of art. It is the prima facie evidence needed to initiate and support an infringement claim or suit.

Copyright laws have attempted to keep up with technology and protect all forms of original artwork.  While copyright protection becomes automatic when your digital work takes on a fixed form, you can bolster the protection through various ways, which include inexpensive methods such as publication  and  copyright registration.  With these various protections at your fingertips, digital artisans can rest easier about their creative works!

For more information on how to register or the fees associated with registration, check the following links: