New Workshop! Lighting 3 | Advanced Off Camera Flash


New Copyright Rules You’ll Want To Know | It’s Good News

By Kishore Sawh on January 26th 2018

The internet, for all its wonderful abilities to let us keep up with news as it happens, reach a target audience for a product or service, find mail-order brides and such, has become a propagator of challenges when it comes to intellectual property. Copyright infringement is no longer fringe. However, copyright registration still sort of is. The USCO (United States Copyright Office) hasn’t really made it very easy to protect yourself, but that seems to be changing with new rules that go into effect February 20th 2018.

Before going any further, let’s be utterly clear, copyright infringements are always going to happen. If you are a published photographer (even on IG) with any manner of presence it likely already has, or will.

So what do you do when it happens? What if work of yours is being used without your permission, what then? For starters you’ll absolutely want to have the entire weight of the law to throw in if you want to stand a chance getting appropriation or a settlement sorted. Which is why the new news is important.

Anything to make the registration of copyright simpler is a step in the right direction, and now, according to the USCO:

“The U.S. Copyright Office is modernizing its practices to increase the efficiency of the group registration option for photographs. This final rule modifies the procedure for registering groups of published photographs (GRPPH), and establishes a similar procedure for registering groups of unpublished photographs (GRUPH).

Applicants will be required to use a new online application specifically designed for each option, instead of using a paper application, and will be allowed to include up to 750 photographs in each claim.

The ‘‘unpublished collection’’ option (which allows an unlimited number of photographs to be registered with one application), and the ‘‘pilot program’’ (which allows an unlimited number of published photographs to be registered with the application designed for one work) will be eliminated. The corresponding ‘‘pilot program’’ for photographic databases will remain in effect for the time being.

The final rule modernizes the deposit requirements by requiring applicants to submit their photographs in a digital format when using GRPPH, GRUPH, or the pilot program for photographic databases, along with a separate document containing a list of the titles and file names for each photograph. The final rule revises the eligibility requirements for GRPPH and GRUPH by providing that all the photographs must be created by the same ‘‘author’’ (a term that includes an employer or other person for whom a work is made for hire), and clarifying that they do not need to be created by the same photographer or published within the same country. It also confirms that a group registration issued under GRPHH or GRUPH covers each photograph in the group, each photograph is registered as a separate work, and the group as a whole is not considered a compilation or a collective work.”


The cost of registering up to 750 images will be $55. That number is important to consider because there was actually a proposition to allow for up to 7500 images to be done for that price, but the office decided that given current staffing levels it would be too much – so it was lowered to 750.

But all in all this is good news and the changes are welcomed. Finally the online filing makes sense and should be simpler and the cost is not prohibitive, though it does still require published and unpublished works to be filed separately.

[REVIEW: Hasselblad X1D Review | It’s Less Mr. Sulu & More Captain Kirk]

As you can see, filing copyright is still a process, but not as arduous or restrictive as it one had been. It does require some forethought, however, and you as the photographer need to be proactive. You’ll want to have your images registered if you are actually going to pursue an infringement case as it acts as proof you own the piece in question and most lawyers in the field will tell you that not having it is fighting an uphill battle even if you’re in the right. You may call it semantics, I say it’s fine print and that’s about the only print that matters. IF your images aren’t registered with the USCO, you won’t have recourse to statutory damages either, nevermind recourse for the legal fees involved.

Check this link for more of a layman breakdown from a legal expert.

Sources: USCO, DPReview, Leslie Burns

This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links, however, this does not impact accuracy or integrity of our content.

A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

Please or register to post a comment.

  1. Rob Durston

    Kishore Sawh big feckon SIGH, if you think this is a good thing then fine but if you want to do more work, on less image files for the same money and call if better, then I don’t see the logic

    | |
  2. Rob Durston

    Kishore Sawh have you ever filed for copyright at eCO before? Multiple times?

    | |
    • Kishore Sawh

      Yes. and Yes. Rob, while I appreciate you being part of SLRL and your enthusiasm for the subject, I’m not sure what more you’d like to occur here. If you disagree with my opinion that’s entirely fine, and opposing ideas make the world go ’round. However, at this juncture, I fail to see where this is headed constructively, as I’m aware of both sides here, but we’ve chosen to place importance on different ones. Cheers

      | |
  3. Rob Durston

    And Kishore Sawh to your link to Leslie’s blog post citing the differences between the past filing of copyright vs. the post Feb. 15th, you’ll notice that there are many differences and for me the big one is the individual naming of each file beyond that actual file name; that is huge. If you have ever filed in the past you never needed this and now you will. 

    How is this easier? Seriously, look at it and “do the math”.

    | |
  4. Rob Durston

    Kishore Sawh if you are in a studio and you own it, and the rights of all the photographers within.

    Its bad, its bad all around for independent freelance photographers who file copyright of their own. Can you not see it?

    | |
    • Kishore Sawh

      Rob, I see your points, I’m just of a different opinion, and with the way I see the industry steering, while it’s not perfect and doesn’t suit everyone, I believe there are positives here and I’m embracing that incremental change. 

      | |
  5. Rob Durston

    Kishore Sawh Its not any simpler? Now instead of doing a mass copyright filing, you are limited to 750 images. Along with that you need to file a ” a separate document containing a list of the titles and file names for each photograph”.

    It was already simple. I never had any issues. You should probably read this too,

    | |
    • Kishore Sawh

      I’m aware Rob, and for some the new rules will not benefit as much. What we’re seeing is capitalization for sure, but at the same time it’s hard to argue with going more online, and the changes to group submissions for studios is certainly beneficial to some.

      | |
  6. Rob Durston

    How is this “GOOD” news?

    | |
    • Kishore Sawh

      The process is much simpler, and that’s been a large barrier to entry, so to speak, historically, for photographers.

      | |