How do I copyright my photos?


“I’ve taken a great photo and want to sell it. Should I copyright it? How do I copyright a photo?”

By Andrew Hudson Published: September 27, 2011 Updated: November 26, 2013

How Do I Copyright A Photo? You don’t. It’s already copyrighted. You don’t need to submit a form, and you don’t have to use that “©” symbol or a watermark — those are just customary ways of identifying the copyright owner.

Thus you don’t need to read this article. But if you want to, here it is.


"Copyright” is “the right to copy.” This right is a legal construct, designed for you — the artist — to support your artistic endeavors. Without copyright, people would be free to use your artistic work without payment, and there would be little financial compensation for the effort of creating art. With copyright, you have legal protection. If someone wants to use (copy) your work, they have to get your permission. You can negotiate a “license” to copy, and perhaps even get paid in real money. Hopefully this will give you more incentive to create art, and the world will be a better place.


Legal copyright dates from 1557. At this time, a British printers’ guild prohibited members from printing books originated by other members. The publisher had protection but not the author. In 1710, Britain’s “Statute of Anne” gave copyright protection to authors, limited the duration of the protection, and gave rights to purchasers. The U.S. Constitution of 1787 discussed “securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries” and the original U.S. Copyright Act dates to 1790. Rights were further defined and globalized with the Berne Convention, which was written in 1886 and adopted in U.K. law in 1988 and the U.S. in 1989.

What Is Copyright?

Copyright applies to most artistic works, such as paintings, murals, statues, TV shows, music, and for us, photography. As a photographer, it gives you the exclusive right to make and sell copies of the photo; to create derivative works (other art based on the photo, such as a painting of the photo); to display the photo in public; and to license usage for money to other people. In a sense, copyright doesn’t give you anything, it really just affects other people, saying what they can’t do, thus It’s known as a “negative right.”

What About That © Symbol?

The © symbol, or any other marking, is not required. It was required in the U.S. before 1989, but adoption of the Berne Convention removed this requirement, as copyright is now automatic. However, it is still optionally used as means of identifying the copyright owner, along with the date of creation. You don’t have to include the © with your photo, but the addition of “© 2006 Joe Bloggs” tells everyone that Joe Bloggs hereby declares copyright ownership of this photo since 2006.

The © symbol is technically a lower-case letter “c” with a circle around it. On a computer keyboard, the symbol is typed by holding down the “option” key and the pressing the letter “g". On a web page, use the HTML tag “©".

Similarly the phrase “All rights reserved” is not required. It was once required to assert international rights but was made redundant by the Berne Convention.

Copyright Is Automatic?

Yes, thanks to the Berne Convention. At the moment of creation, when the artwork is “fixed” in some tangible form, copyright applies automatically. For a photographer, when you press the shutter release you are making a photo and gaining copyright to that photo at the same time. You don’t have to declare copyright or file any paperwork. It is yours to keep until you explicitly give it away or you die (copyright expires after you, the duration in the U.S. is the author’s lifetime plus 70 years).

That said, there is an advantage to registering your copyright. If a dispute arises, you can get punitive damages (in addition to compensatory damages) if a form was filed before infringement.

Will People Steal My Work?

Generally no, as publishers live by copyright law and usually have established rates which they gladly pay. A more likely problem is that publishers may not know that you are the copyright owner, which goes back to that “©” symbol and watermark.

If you put your photos on the Internet, you may find them cropping up on other amateur websites, but not on professional websites or in printed media. Pictures on the Internet are too low in resolution to use in print. By the way, putting photos on the Internet may make them publicly available but does not (in the legal sense) put them in the public domain.

What about overseas? Your copyright is valid in all countries that adhere to the Berne Convention.

But How Do You Copyright A Photo?

“Very nice but you haven’t answered the original question: How do I copyright my photo?”

Get a form here. Complete, attach a copy of your photo, and mail to U.S. Copyright Office in Washington, D.C.

Have fun!


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Reply by

April 8, 2021

A gentleman bought a portfolio of photo’s from a photographer, a racetrack photographer, taken 50 years ago. The original photographer also sold these photo’s to individuals at the racetrack during that time, so other stock car drivers, do have their photo’s and have given me permission to use them. Am I able to do that or does the individual who bought the portfolio have the right to prevent me from using the photo’s? I don’t see any difference from him buying the photo’s from him 5 years ago from the driver’s buying the same photo’s 50 years ago. Thanks for any help.

Reply by

December 29, 2020

I took some beautiful pictures of the sky and I put them on my facebook as my background picture. Then I saw that someone had taken the picture. I know that my photos are automatically copyrighted. Is it illegal for that person to use my picture without my permission

Reply by Email (optional)

November 18, 2020

Hello there , If I discovered unknown photos of President Lincoln and his wife -- could i copyright them,,, not knowing the actual photographer or the actual date--- they are still my images , not identified until i discovered and researched them, and did photos of them for research ,,,,,,,,,

Reply by

June 12, 2020


I would like a paper copy infringing copyright you can guide me or give me a specific link


Reply by Email (optional)

January 12, 2020

Valuable information. Fortunate me I discovered your website by chance, and I’m shocked why this twist of fate did not took place earlier! I bookmarked it.

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Reply by Anonymous

August 5, 2018

I am an amateur photographer. I took a picture of my dogs for my kennel and it recently went viral, however I came across a business that posted my picture and the caption was “save 20% to burger your dogs.”

Is this legal or can I do anything?

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

July 27, 2019

Yes, you can stop this, or get payment. Your photo automatically received copyright protection when you took it. For someone to be using your photo without permission for commercial advertising is copyright infringement. You can contact the advertiser and ask for payment or to stop using the picture. You can also contact any web provider and file a DMCA copyright violation to get them to remove the advert.

Reply by Dave From Saint John, Canada

May 19, 2018

Thanks for the info on your site now I think I know how to move forward on building my photo business.

Reply by Charlie

August 14, 2017


I looked over all of the questions asked before asking my own but could not find anything similar so my apology beforehand if I missed it.

I will watermark my photos online for protection but will take it off when sold. And I will copyright them also but will leave it on. Since I don’t want my full name to appear, is it alright to put my pen name on both? Will it still be acceptable legally (if you know this) if ever something happens and my photos are copied?

Reply by Anonymous

March 20, 2017

Great info...for the amateur/serious photographers!

I have a copyright question. I’ve created 20"x30" high quality posters of artwork in the NYC subways. NYC MTA has a wonderful Art and Design group that commissions artwork- paintings, sculptures, tile mosaics and incorporates them into permanent display in subway terminals and platforms. My posters are of no single piece of artwork and typically take bits and pieces from a work or multiple images from the 20-30 that maybe displayed in a terminal stop and I incorporate these into the specific theme at a given location. Currently I’ve only created these posters based on tile mosaics that are permanently imbedded into the walls of the subway. The artwork is commissioned by the MTA.

My question is, are the posters unique and original enough — since they aren’t photos of a photo or single piece of artwork — to be copyrighted by me (I did read your post on slavish copy). I began making them as a photoshop exercise but have had many urgings by family and friends to market them...any advice would be appreciated.

Reply by Email (optional)

January 26, 2017

Hello. I understand by reading all your questions/replies, copyright is automatically by ownership. Though, I am like everyone else and want extra protection. I want to create a business of greeting cards with my photos and even maybe new artist exhibits.

A while back I heard of a creative way to copyright your own photos, by mailing your ’disc of photos’ to yourself and not opening the envelope.

Just incase you find an infringement, then you would take the envelope unopened to court as further proof of ownership to the judge.

Note, I have not used my photos even on the internet and would not do so until after I mailed them to myself with that Post Mark on the envelope.

Have you ever heard of this before and do you think a US judge would respect your ownership this way?

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

January 27, 2017


Good point. I should write an article about this.

Yes, I have heard of this and it is known as “poor man’s copyright.” There’s a Wikipedia page about it.

Poor man’s copyright (mailing photos to yourself) has almost no effect in U.S. copyright law. Do not bother.

“The practice of sending a copy of your own work to yourself is sometimes called a “poor man’s copyright.” There is no provision in the copyright law regarding any such type of protection, and it is not a substitute for registration.”

U.S. Copyright Office

Since the Copyright Act of 1976 (when the U.S. adopted the Berne Convention), copyright in the U.S. has been automatic. Thus, you already have copyright protection for your photos. Poor man’s copyright (PMC) may help you prove authorship but there are several issues: it is not ironclad; it is not supported by statutory law; there are other ways of showing authorship; and most copyright court cases do not focus on authorship, they are often more about fair use. So mailing a copy is unlikely to be useful in court.

What is useful in court is registering your copyright. Under U.S. law, registration gives you several additional benefits: your copyright becomes a public record; you get a certificate of registration; your copyright is prima facie evidence in court; if you win a case, you can claim statutory damages and attorney’s fees.

You can register all your photos at once, online here. The cost is currently $55 for an unlimited number of photos (single author, same claimant, file sizes under 500MB). That is about the same cost and hassle of printing and mailing copies to yourself.

So register your photos and you will get the maximum protection.

Reply by Amber

January 18, 2017


I have a six-year-old daughter whose stepmom has a side business of photography. She has a business page through Facebook and post pictures of my daughter that she has taken of her on this page. And I feel as if my daughter is being used as advertisement for her business. Of course, she has her name and copyright on the pictures so I’m not allowed to obtain any of the pictures. Is there a way to copyright my daughter’s image so her stepmom is able to do this? If not then is there other options I have available to me as the child’s mother? And can she block me from obtaining pictures of my own daughter?

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

January 19, 2017

Hi Amber,

Sorry for your difficult situation.

Facebook has tools for this. For children under 13, you can use this form to “Report a Privacy Rights Violation.” If you have been unfriended by the person, see How do I report something on Facebook if I don’t have an account or can’t see it?.

Additionally, there is COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998), a U.S. federal law to protect the online privacy of children under 13. This law includes photographs of a child’s image; however, COPPA only applies to personal information collected online from children, not from parents (or step-parents).

Your daughter’s image (likeness) is controlled by privacy law, which is mostly local (state) law. But since one parent (the father, your presumed ex-husband) has given tacit approval to use your daughter’s likeness (by presumably not objected to the stepmom’s use), then it may be difficult for the other parent (you) to invoke privacy law.

Note that I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice.

Good luck,


Reply by Anonymous

September 12, 2016

I would like to try selling my photos on a microstock website. I understand that as soon as I take a picture they are automatically copyrighted but in this case, do I have to register my photos copyrights with the U.S. copyright office?

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

September 12, 2016

You do not have to register the copyrights with the U.S. Copyright Office, even when submitting to a microstock website.

Reply by Anonymous

August 31, 2016

Hello Andrew,

Recently a photographer took photos on a property that we own without our permission and is using them for commercial purposes. Are these automatically given copyright status? We are in the UK.

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

September 2, 2016

Most photos by private people or companies get copyright status automatically. But copyright is not the concern here, instead let’s look at trespassing, property rights, and trade law.

If the person took the photos while “on” your property (and the property area was marked with a fence or notice), then that would be trespassing. You might be able use trespassing law to get what you want.

If the use is “commercial” then the photographer is benefiting from your property and work on that property (unfair trade). You might be able to use property law, and/or trade law.

Try sending the photographer a “cease and desist letter”.

Consult a local attorney for specific advice.

Reply by Emai

July 29, 2016

I had some animal photos that I took printed at a CostCo. I went back a few days later and saw one of my photos enlarged to poster size as an example of what they sell. Is this legal?

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

September 2, 2016


You could try asking them for some free services in exchange for their illegal use.

Since you took the photo, you own the copyright, which means only you have the right to copy the photo. CostCo should have asked your permission beforehand. Since they are using your image to attract business (advertising, trade), this is likely commercial use and thus illegal under the federal copyright act (Copyright Act of 1976, known as U.S. Code Title 17).

Filing a copyright lawsuit may be financially uneconomical. Instead, talk with the manager and perhaps they’ll offer something of value to placate you.

Reply by Anonymous

June 15, 2016

Hi Andrew,

Thank you so much for the wonderfully informative blog and comments section.

I have some extremely unique spiritual photographs, more than a hundred in total. Although you claim that it isn’t essential to have a professional copyright, I believe it might be in my interest to do so, as you pointed out, it could be potentially useful if litigation was required.

I note however, that they are covered for 30 years only, does that mean post that period they would automatically go into the public domain?

I’m in the UK, so can I use and would it still be advisable in your opinion to watermark them for use online/book.

Finally, can I assume copyright protection is the same regardless of media platform like newspapers/magazines/TV etc.

Thanks for your time.

Kindest regards.

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

June 16, 2016


• You do not need to register the copyright. My text is for the U.S., where basic protection applies automatically and full protection requires registration. But in the UK, full protection applies automatically, and registration is not needed or available.

• In the UK, copyright in images lasts for the life of the creator plus 70 years. So you are OK!

• Adding a watermark or other embedded information is always advisable for online and book publishing. This allows others to see that someone owns the copyright and is interested in defending that copyright. Including contact information is useful so that others know who to contact in order to license the image.

• Yes, copyright is the same regardless of media platform.

Reply by Alysin

June 10, 2016

PLEASE HELP!!! I don’t know where else to turn and this seems like you really know the legal issues with photos. I post photos of my children to Facebook for my family and friends to see. However, I have a two year old daughter whose biological grandmother keeps taking pictures of my child off my Facebook and posting them to hers!! (I have a DVO against her son and sole custody of my daughter. That’s another story, just some background. There is NO CONTACT BETWEEN ME AND THESE PEOPLE!!!!!) And it’s not even HER doing it!! I have her and everyone associated with her BLOCKED!! She has having complete strangers that I do not know taking photos of MY CHILD off my Facebook page and using them as her own!!! In my eyes, this cannot be legal!! This is my child. Not hers. Mine. She’s two-years-old. Please tell me here is something out there to protect my children. Thank you!!

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

June 13, 2016

Hi Alysin,

Sorry to hear of your situation.

You can get Facebook to remove the pictures from her account. Here is the link. For more info, see reporting copyright infringements.

Good luck!


Reply by Bolly

May 27, 2016

Hi- I tried sending this as an email, but it wouldn’t go through. Anyway, this is my situation. I am a senior who volunteers at a senior center. I came up with the idea of name badges for all volunteers, which includes their photo. The response was very favorable. I took their photos with my cell camera and had taken more photos using another person’s cell camera. Now I am being asked by the office to turn over my files so that another person can use my work to continue. My feeling is that I don’t legally have to do that and that I still own the copyright to all the photos and to the name badges that I created on which the photos appear. Would you agree? I look forward to your response, and I’m very pleased to have found your website. Thank you in advance.

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

June 7, 2016


Your feeling is correct. You took the photos so you own the copyright. The office has to have your permission before using the photos, so you can ask for payment, get something else of value, or just say no.

Reply by Anonymous

May 4, 2016

Hi! I took a few pics of a dance group at an event after getting their permission verbally. And want to send them few of those pics. If they want to use it in their school / collage’s newsletter or magazine, how should I inform them that I own the copyright to all those photos and to use them in any publication they would need to mention my name and contact in credits?


Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

June 7, 2016

When you email (or otherwise deliver) the pictures, you could add a note, such as:

These images are copyright of (your name here). You may publish these images provided that the following credit is included:

(your credit line here, such as Photo © Joe Blogg, 212-555-1212)

For a similar license, see Creative Commons Attribution license.

Reply by Neha

April 2, 2016


I am running a Facebook page where I upload all the old question papers of my college. Now one day someone suddenly came and told me that he has downloaded all the pics from my page to upload on his self-created website.

Is it legal?

What can I do now to protect the images I upload on the page?

I cannot make them private as they are for the benefit of students of college.

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

April 4, 2016

Hi Neha,

Yes, it is probably legal.

Since you did not create the questions, you do not have copyright. Even though you took the photos, you did not add significant “originality” to the pics, so your photos do not have copyright. Legally this is known as “slavish copying” and the landmark law is Bridgeman v. Corel, 1999, which denied copyright “where a photograph of a photograph or other printed matter is made that amounts to nothing more than slavish copying.” So you cannot protect the images using copyright (or other) law.

You can, however, make the pics difficult to copy. You can disable the “Right-click to copy” feature, and “shrinkwrap” your images so that they can be seen but not directly copied. See Thwart.

Reply by Anonymous

March 17, 2016

I added some photos of recipes I made to a group on Facebook. Now that group is going to use mine and other peoples photographs in a printed recipe book. Even though I do not mind them being in the group I am in, I have not given permission or have been asked if they can be used in a recipe book. Can that owner of the group use my photographs in her recipe book without my permission? Is she breaking copyright?

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

March 18, 2016

She cannot use your photographs in her recipe book without your permission. She is breaking copyright.

You have copyright, which is the exclusive right to copy your photos. Other people cannot legally copy your photos for profit without your permission. You can set your terms, such as attribution, and/or payment, and/or a number of free books.

If she continues without your permission, you can send a cease-or-desist letter and threaten a federal copyright lawsuit.

Reply by Anonymous

February 9, 2016


I am working on a photographic series (kinda like an Anne Geddes’ series but not with babies). My concern is that if I start putting my series out there, what is going to stop another person from using my idea and doing the same series as I am? I have researched my idea for my series and there is nothing else out there like what I want to do. I understand each picture is automatically copyrighted, but how can I prevent someone from being a copycat of my series?

Thank you so much for your time and any information you may have to help me with this issue!

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

February 9, 2016

Good question!

The answer is: Nothing.

Copyright law explicitly does not cover ideas:

“In no case does copyright protection ... extend to any idea ...”

— U.S. Copyright Law, USC 17 Section 102.

No other law protects a book idea, so, unfortunately for you, you cannot legally stop another person from using your idea.

However, the real answer is in your question. Notice how you reference Anne Geddes. Why is this? Not because she legally owns the idea but because she artistically “owns” the idea. She built a strong brand, with quality photos and books, and she really concentrated on her niche. You can do the same, and be the person people associate with your idea.

Reply by Anonymous

January 31, 2016

I am not a pro but I did study photography at a collage in OH. I was thinking about selling some of my work online. Do you need to copyright ALL of your work? (every photo) THANK YOU

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

February 1, 2016

You do not need to copyright all your work as it already has copyright protection. Copyright is automatic (it is a “right”), so you get copyright in every photo you take.

Reply by Anonymous

January 21, 2016

I’m not a professional photographer, but I do take and post a lot of pictures on social media sites. Do I need to watermark my photos? If so, how would I watermark them without sounding like I’m a business? For example, could I put “my name photography” so that everyone knows I own the photo? This is a hobby/passion right now, but I would love to pursue it further, even considering having an online gallery of some type. Thanks for the helpful info so far!

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

January 22, 2016

You do not need to watermark your photos, but you can. Adding a watermark such as “© Your Name” or “Your Name Photography” is a good way to show that you will enforce your copyright.

For more information, see protect photos online and watermark.

Reply by Anonymous

January 19, 2016

How do one’s photos get automatically copyrighted without registering for copyright?

I’d appreciate your answer because I have some pictures I want to post online but I am hesitant on doing so because I am afraid it will be part of the public domain.


Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

January 20, 2016

>How do one’s photos get automatically copyrighted without registering for copyright?

This is a function of U.S. law, stemming from the U.S. Constitution (Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8). It is a “right” which you get for every artwork you create. Copyright “subsists” (exists) the moment an artwork is created. You do not have to do anything. No registration is required.

“Copyright protection subsists ... in original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium ... [including] pictorial ... works.”

— U.S. Copyright Law (USC 17) §102(a)

Registration is optional and provides additional protection useful in a court case, but it is not necessary.

“Public domain” is a term used for artwork that does not have copyright protection (for example, for old works where the copyright has expired). But your photos have copyright protection so you can post them online and, even though they are in public view, they will not be part of the public domain.

Reply by Anonymous

November 24, 2015

I am by no means a professional photographer, but I love taking pictures! I love it so much I’ve bought an expensive camera, laptop, and have several editing apps. I always have family and friends asking me to take family pictures, weddings, children photos. I’ve highly taken it into consideration. But everytime I print my picture (Wal-Mart, Walgreens) they hassle me about having my copyrights because my photos are professional. And every time I have to explain that I am the photographer. They hesitate, make me sign a paper. So what I’m wondering, is if I decide to take photos for family and friends how do I go about releasing copyrights to them? Can I just type up documentation and sign? Does it need to be notarized?

Thank you for help!

Reply by Anonymous

October 10, 2015

Can you create a layer in Photoshop with the text, your name, the date, and the copyright symbol? Can you tell me how to make such a layer, and how to incorporate it on your photo?

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

January 12, 2016

Hi. Yes this is possible.

You can create a new layer in Photoshop with Layer > New > Layer. Then use the Text tool to add your name and date. The copyright symbol can be made as text using: (a) for Mac, Option+G; (b) for Windows, Alt 0169; or (c) just copy and paste this: ©. You can change the color, size, font and/or transparency of your text. Then “flatten” the layers (Layer > Flatten Image) and save.

You can save the text layer (on a transparent background) and use it on other photos.

This is often called a “copyright watermark” so you can search YouTube for tutorials called “How to add a copyright watermark in Photoshop.”

Reply by Anonymous

July 31, 2015

I am currently president of a small community civic group. One of our members spent several years as the club’s unofficial photographer and posted photos from the organization’s events on our Facebook page. Recently this person has become disgruntled with the club and is insisting that any photos they took be removed because we didn’t have written permission to use them. This makes no sense to me since they are the one who put them on the club’s Facebook page. I would appreciate your input on this situation.

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

January 13, 2016


I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice.

I would argue that, although you didn’t have written permission, you had implied permission. The photographer allowed you to post the photos on Facebook, and thus gave you tacit consent to do so.

The photographer is unlikely to take this to court (as a copyright case can cost $100,000), and you would likely win anyway due to the tacit consent, lack of damages, and trivial nature.

However, the photographer could submit a “DMCA takedown notice” to Facebook which would likely get the photos removed.

Contact a local copyright attorney for specific advice.

Reply by Anonymous

July 19, 2015

Hello -

I’d appreciate you weighing in on this question. I work in a small Carnegie library and have taken a number of photos of the park outside. Two of my best photos feature unnamed children playing. These are not closeups, and I question that the children would be recognized. However, I know that if it could happen, it might well happen.

May I still use these photos on our website without issues with concerned parents? I respect security concerns and want to handle this in the best way possible.

By the way, I don’t know who the children are!


Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

January 13, 2016


You could blur the faces in Photoshop so that the children are not recognizable.

Or take some photos that do not include recognizable children. Or take photos and get permission from the parents.

Otherwise, if the photos are used as a factual portrayal of the park, and no money is being made, and the children are not the main subject, then you may be OK.

I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice; consult a local attorney for advice.

Reply by Anonymous

June 24, 2015

I use old photos from the 40s, 50s and 60s and recreate them with info about the photo. Can I copyright the re-creation?

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

January 6, 2016

Yes. This is called “derivative work”, where you own copyright in the artistry that you add. For more info, see derivative work.

Reply by Anonymous

June 14, 2015

What program do you have to have to open up a photo to put the copyright mark on it? I can’t see an option key on my keyboard, so how do I get the symbol and name on any photo that I have?

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

June 16, 2015

To add a copyright mark (or anything else) on a photo, you need a photo editor. Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Photoshop Elements are popular (paid) programs.

There are free online photo editors. Here are some links:

Reply by Anonymous

June 14, 2015

Noticed the article stated to use the option key and hit g at the same time. Well, my laptop has no option key. How else can you get the mark?

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

June 16, 2015

Option-G is for a Mac keyboard. For a Windows keyboard, try holding the “Alt” key while typing “0169”. Small keyboards may require you to hold down a function key to access the number keys, so that would be function+Alt+0169.

Reply by Adrian

June 10, 2015


I am a professional photographer and I was ready to open an Etsy store to sell my fine art photography but the terms got my attention and stop me on the spot. According to the terms: "You grant Etsy a non-exclusive, worldwide, perpetual, irrevocable, royalty-free, sublicensable.... right to exercise the copyright..."

Why the rights granted to Etsy should be irrevocable and perpetual? If in a few months I decide to close my store and stop doing business on Etsy altogether, why Etsy needs to keep using my images in perpetuity?



Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

June 11, 2015

Hi Adrian,

This is just to allow Etsy to do what you want them to do. You are considering the terms out of context. The preceding sentence says "solely to enable Etsy to use any information or Content you supply Etsy". If you upload a picture of your product, these terms allow Etsy to display that image. The terms include "irrevocable and perpetual" so that Etsy has the freedom to do what you want them to do.

As always online, if you don’t want something online, don’t upload it online.

The full quote is:

License: Etsy does not claim ownership rights in your Content. You grant Etsy a license solely to enable Etsy to use any information or Content you supply Etsy with, so that Etsy is not violating any rights you might have in that Content. You grant Etsy a non-exclusive, worldwide, perpetual, irrevocable, royalty-free, sublicensable (through multiple tiers) right to exercise the copyright, publicity, and database rights (but no other rights) you have in the Content, in any media now known or not currently known, with respect to your Content. You agree to allow Etsy to store, translate, or re-format your Content on Etsy and display your Content on Etsy in any way Etsy chooses.

Reply by

May 25, 2015

I am a photographer and taking a lot of photos. How do I copyright all of it and the future photos as well?

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

May 29, 2015


Your photos automatically get copyright. So all your photos already have (and your future photos will have) copyright protection.

In the U.S., to get additional protection, you can register your copyrights. You can copyright all your existing photos at one time, in one application, and for one price (about $50 in the U.S.) at

Reply by Anonymous

April 7, 2015

Hello! I am looking to post some of my pictures online that I took on a recent trip. I don’t want to brag or anything but my pictures are pretty good and I don’t want someone else claiming them as their own; So I posted my pictures with © and than my name over the bottom of the picture. Recently, Two different people have asked for two different pictures to frame them. They want me to send them to them without my name on them. I’m fine doing this but wondering if their is a form I can print out and have them sign that clearly states that they cannot post them anywhere online or claim the pictures as their own.

Thank You!

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

April 21, 2015


Congratulations in finding admirers!

There isn’t a standard form for this, but you could print your phrase and call it an agreement or a letter of understanding, and ask the people to sign and return letter. Or they could email their acceptance, if you’re OK with that. Having some proof that you sent them the pictures (such as a letter, a FedEx tracking number, or a copy of an email) would be useful if there is a disagreement later.

Your photos automatically got copyright, so you already have legal protection against people posting the photos online of claiming the pictures as their own.


Reply by Anonymous

March 20, 2015

Hi there. I am a tattoo artist and new to this so wanting to know if I can copy any picture? And, if it’s copyright, how do I go about asking if I can, and wanting to know the pictures and tattoos I do myself can I copyright these?

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

May 29, 2015


In the U.S., most images created since 1977 have copyright protection. So you can’t copy any picture without permission. To ask for permission, contact the photographer/artist.

You can license images to copy, at stock agencies such as Shutterstock.

The pictures and tattoos that you do yourself automatically get copyright protection. (Artwork is protected upon creation). Optionally you can register the copyrights, at

Reply by Anonymous

March 18, 2015

Hi, I’m divorced and my ex husband got our house through our settlement. The house was not kept up well and looks nothing like what it did when I maintained it. He is now selling the house and the realtor has posted pictures I took of the house when it was in tip-top shape; decorating and photography are a hobby of mine. Those pictures were uploaded to which is now I’m sure at one time, when I first proudly took the pictures, I sent my husband (now ex) some of my best photos. Would have uploading them to Kodak or Shutterfly given me automatic copyright? Or would the pictures I took be my ex husband’s right to post too?

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

May 29, 2015



Sorry to hear of your situation.

You already have copyright for your photos. Protection is automatic, upon creation. Uploading to Kodak/Shutterfly made no difference to the copyright status.

In a divorce, I believe that copyright is treated like other property, so ownership would depend upon your settlement.

You could probably get the realtor to remove the online photos. Go to the website (or the website of the website’s hosting company) and look for a “legal” link. By law, there should be a place where you can request photos to be removed due to copyright violation. This is known as a “DMCA takedown notice”.

Reply by Cyrus

February 16, 2015


I have a refinishing company and I recently found out that a new competitor copied one of our before and after pictures from our website and had it wrapped on a huge box truck. How should I proceed with this? Can I sue, and if so will it be in my favor?

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

March 6, 2015

Hi Cyrus,

Yes you can sue. You can probably get the picture removed from the box truck, but you may be limited in financial damages.

One question is: who owns the copyright to the photo? Only the copyright owner can dictate how the photo is used. If you took the photo then you are the copyright owner and you can demand that the competitor stop using it. But if you licensed the image from a photographer or stock photo agency, then your competitor can probably license it too.

To sue, contact a local lawyer. They could submit a cease-and-desist letter, to demand removal of the photo and demand a financial payment. The competitor might remove the photo, and this might be the best you can get without going to court. You could threaten to pursue a copyright claim, but in reality it would be too expensive and time-consuming for this situation. You might do better with a claim of unfair business practices, or a small-claims case.

Best wishes,


Reply by Anonymous

January 29, 2015

Hi! My question is this:

I have an Etsy shop, i sell dog clothing. I was just made aware that another Etsy shop is using one of my photos, on a cell phone case she sells. Its of one of my pugs wearing a sombrero. She did not ask me to use this photo i was actually made aware of this from one of my customers who was browsing cell phone cases, and came across this. I messaged her, and told her to take it down, or i would report her shop. what else can i do? im really angry that she is using my photo to make money in her shop.

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

February 6, 2015

Hi Etsy-seller,

Go ahead and report it. Like other websites, Etsy is required by U.S. copyright law to offer a “DMCA takedown” procedure. You can start the process by sending an email to, or by using the link on the item’s page.

“For item listings or shops that appear to be breaking policies, use the link on the listing or shop page to report it to us. At the bottom of a listing page, you can click Report this item to Etsy.”


Here is a link to Etsy’s Copyright and Intellectual Property Policy.

Reply by Jay

January 28, 2015

Hi Andrew,

I currently have a photo that has went viral and has showed up on hundreds of different websites. I Have taken the photo myself. What can I do to collect any royalties from this picture? I have not given permission to any of these sites to use this image.

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

January 28, 2015

Hi Jay,

Congratulations on making a popular photo!

A photo that goes viral is being reposted by people for free, so there probably aren’t any royalties to collect.

You can get the photo removed from reputable U.S. websites by submitting a “DMCA takedown notice.” Look under “Help” or “Legal” for reporting a copyright infringement. For example, here is the link for Facebook. Websites respond quickly to these requests as it is part of U.S. copyright law.

Good luck,


Reply by Anonymous

January 17, 2015


I have a photo of my daughter that I want to get out there. I am very nervous about this and want to protect the rights to this photo. I just don’t know if it is worth it? Should I put the copyright symbol on it or will this not make a difference as I am reading people can just crop this out of the photo as it is at the bottom of the photo anyway. There seems to be a way around for these people anyway.

Not sure what to do?

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

January 27, 2015


1. Is it worth it?

That depends on why you want to get the photo out there. If the purpose is to publicize your daughter, then a photo is a good way. If the purpose is to earn money from the photo, then maybe. But if your primary issue is privacy or piracy, the only way to completely prevent unauthorized use of the photo is to not post it on the Internet in the first place.

2. Copyright symbol

Adding copyright information will help. Yes it can be cropped out but this is illegal (as removal of “CMI”, Copyright Management Information), and most copying is by reposting images without alteration. You can also embed copyright information into the file, using metadata/EXIF. If you are showcasing the image on your own website, you can make the image difficult to copy. For more information, see protect photos online.

Hope this helps,


Reply by Aaliyah

January 12, 2015

Hi Andrew! Hoping all is well!

Thanks for sharing your expertise on this subject! You may have answered my question already above, but to ensure I’m following you correctly I would like to see your opinion on what I should do.

My mother was a photographer and I’m in the process of releasing some of her photos in a public domain. My goal is of course to resell prints down the road. What steps should I take first to protect the images from being used outside of my own projects?

Thanks in advance!

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

January 27, 2015

Hi Aaliyah,

You could attach copyright information to the photos, and register the copyrights.

Incidentally, “public domain” is used in a legal context to mean “without copyright”, so let’s say instead that you want to “license” the photos.

One issue might be who owns the copyrights. If your mother “was” a photographer (and has since passed away), her copyrights would have passed as property with her estate. I’ll assume that you alone inherited her estate, and thus you alone are the copyrights owner.

To inform people of the copyright ownership, you could add a copyright notice. If you are posting the photos online, you could superimpose “© Your Name” on the image, perhaps by using an image editor such as Photoshop. This could be in small text at the bottom, or as a big “watermark” lightly across the image. (This does not apply if you are submitting files to microstock agencies, as they will use their own watermark). In a digital file, you can also add the copyright information to the “EXIF” data (hidden but attached metadata text tags), which also can be done with an image editor. (Again, does not apply for microstock as they will use their own metadata). For more on this and related topics, see protect photos online.

You can register your copyrights online at For one nominal fee you register a group of photos with one application. You may need to show evidence that you inherited your mother’s property.

Good luck,


Reply by Stacy

November 27, 2014

I appreciate your blog, very informative!! I have a quick question, I was recently asked to participate in a local contest and i posted a comment about it because I was excited and the mother of a family I photographed immediately jumped on and demanded I NOT use pictures of her children. I own the photos right? Can I do with them what I want? I don’t think I could ever use them anyway knowing how she feels about it but she is claiming that because the photos are of her family, then she owns them!?!?! I would appreciate any feedback your able to give!

Thank you,


Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

December 4, 2014

Hi Stacy,

This is a popular question. Essentially, photographers own copyright and models own publicity rights.

You own the copyright of photos that you take. The mother does not own any copyright in your photos. But you cannot “do with them what I want” as the mother has publicity rights for the kids in your photos. So the mother can restrict your use of your photos, particularly for commercial uses.

(Note, publicity rights vary by state, and may not exist in some areas.)

If you photograph families, you should get a signed release for each person in a photo. Then there is a mutual understanding of how the photos can be used, such as for submitting to contests.

The release could be a simple, one-sentence statement. For an example, see model release. If your release included ‘self-promotion such as photo contests’ then you would be safe to enter your photos.

For a minor thing such as a photo contest, I don’t think an objecting mother has much legal recourse. But it is always better to avoid upsetting people.

Best wishes,


Reply by Anonymous

October 31, 2014

I am a solicitor & some of what this guy is saying is correct. However, do not be fooled into thing that copyright is automatic, it’s not, until your material is registered with the copyright office, anyone can use it legally without your permission. For more correct information, go to:

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

November 3, 2014


Thanks for the comment. You are a solicitor and I am not so I respect your learned opinion.

However, I disagree on the point of “automatic.” Copyright in the UK, the US, and most countries, is automatic. This is by statutory law, based on the Berne Convention. The website you reference states “automatic right” (on page

Basic protection is automatic. Registration is optional and can confer additional legal protection. Other types of intellectual property (such as trade marks and patents) do require registration, but not copyright.

Best wishes,


Reply by Kent

October 22, 2014

Valuable information. Thank you for sharing. I have a question. Is there any legal aspect restricting me from using the "©" symbol in a photograph without registering my copyrights? For example, say I want to put "© 2014 xxxx" in my photograph and I have not registered my copyrights. can I do that?

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

November 3, 2014

Hi Kent,

No, there is no legal restriction. Using the copyright symbol, and registering your copyright, are two independent things.

The copyright symbol is purely informational. It is a convenient way to tell people that you own copyright on the image and you are interested in protecting your property. Registration is not required. You can use the symbol any way you like, or not at all. So go ahead and add “© 2014 xxxx” on your photo.

Best wishes,


Reply by Harry

October 2, 2014

I have found a company that is using my photos on its adverts, I have not copyrighted my photos just had them on my web site, am I in a position to get the advert stopped?

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

October 8, 2014

Hi Harry,

Yes. You can demand that the advert be stopped, or that you get paid for your contribution.

Your photos are copyrighted, as all your photos are automatically copyrighted when you take them. What you have not done is registered your copyright, but that should not be an issue unless you go to court.

Start by sending a cease and desist letter. You could write this yourself, or use a lawyer. Ask them to pay you (typically, after-the-fact licenses are three times the rate of before-the-fact licenses). If you don’t get a check in the mail, then consult a lawyer for specific advice.

Best wishes,


Reply by Stephanie

August 8, 2013

Please send me a copy of the copyright form. Thank you!

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

September 23, 2013

Hi Stephanie:

Here is the link to the copyright form.


Reply by Kayise

August 1, 2013

How do I go about copyrighting a photo.

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

September 23, 2013

Hi Kayise:

Hi Henriette:

On my to-do list is to write a step-by-step guide. I will post it at register. Until then, see

more info.


Reply by Darryl Barnes Sr.

July 21, 2013

Thank you as this has cleared up my confusion.

Reply by Christopher

July 18, 2013

i was recently given a photographers archive including prints and negatives and artists proofs. they date from the 40’s to the 60’s. he passed away in the early eighties and his lover retained the archive. he gave me the archive. i would like to release a limited edition of these photos in sets. i know that i need to copyright them. How should i go about this? as well, if i hire the job out to have them printed, do i need to give the lab the artists proofs?


help me!!

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

September 23, 2013

Hi Christopher:

Photos from before 1977 do not generally have copyright protection unless copyright was specifically registered, displayed and renewed. So private unpublished photos are likely to be in the public domain, meaning that you (or anyone) can publish the photos.

In the above case, you cannot copyright the photos, as the photos are free for you (or anyone) to use.

A lab would want the negatives in order to make the best quality reproductions.


Reply by Kenneth Cain

February 8, 2012

I am starting my own photography business but would like to make my pictures coy righted how do I go about doing this??? what are the things that I need to do?

Thank you

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

March 8, 2012

Hi Kenneth. Click on the “Read this” link above. This page is waiting for me to complete!

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