Yesterday afternoon I finished work on my next series of photographs that I plan to incorporate into my new book and was ready to copyright them. So, I decided to give the new United States Copyright Office electronic copyright system a try.
The Copyright Process - standard method:
Previously I printed out a hard application form from their website http://www.copyright.gov/ and completed it, made prints of my photographs and accompanying information, - made a copy of everything for myself, then mailed them registered return receipt to the Library of Congress (LOC). Waited for three or four days to track online and get notification that they were received by the LOC. At this point I could start to publish the photographs because they are protected as soon as they are received, but I still had to wait for over 6 months to get a certificate that a publishing house might need to verify that they are my copyright. Wait for about 5 months for them to cash your check, wondering all the while if there is anything wrong? Then continue to wait for your certificate. I am still waiting today for a certificate from a submission I made on October 22, 2007 - when I spoke to the Copyright Office a few days ago they said it is still being processed and may take a few more months as they are so backlogged things are taking about 8 months now due to the changeover to their electronic process (which he said is taking about 4 months)!
cost - $23.02 prints and copies
mailing - $5.25
Total = $73.27 for 81 photographs + about 6 hours of my time running around initially and then calling and checking on it!
The new and improved Copyright Process - Electronic Copyright:
So, yesterday afternoon at about 5:15pm I was ready to give it a try. Wow...what a pleasure! It took me 40 minutes from start to finish. I created an account http://www.copyright.gov/eco/index.html, then filled out the application form. The next step was to pay on a separate secure site which was easy and fast. I was returned to my application without any difficulty and the final step was to upload my submission. There is a 30 minute time limit and it was suggested that if my file was too large I might need to creat a .zip file, however I only had 75 photographs for this submission so I just uploaded them individually. When I hit the "submit" button they were all uploaded within 7 minutes, and I was given a confirmation page with the document files and titles to print out for my records. Then I was returned to the home page where I can now track my submission electronically with a unique file number. The biggest advantage is that my photographs are acknowledged as submitted immediately and I don't have to wait an additional 3-5 days for mailing delivery confirmation!
cost: - $0 printing and copies
fees: - $35
mailing - $0
Total = $35 + 40 minutes of my time (this will increase slightly over the next four months as I track my open case online to ensure that it is completed, but should be minimal as it will not entail redialing and waiting on hold for the copyright office).
I highly recommend the new Electronic Copyright process for artists and photographers - it is cheaper, faster, and less stressful!