Thursday, November 5, 2009

Dim-witted Ideas from The Copyright Registry

Advising photographers that you should only ever register a single image at at time is just as dim-witted as advice to someone to never go across the street because you might get hit by a car. Yet, the brilliant minds parading around as experts-in-residence at the dubiously named Copyright Registry are telling you to do just that, when they suggest, in their poorly titled blog piece - Best Practices Copyright Registration Quantities - "Best Practices for governmental copyright registration dictate that you should only publish and register one image at a time." We previously wrote about the dubiously named Copyright Registry - What the....? C-Registry = Con Registry?

The "diminished value" advice in this article may - and I emphasize heavily *may* - be just as technically correct as the notion that you should never cross a street or you might get hit; or, you should avoid flying because you might crash; or, a la Howard Hughes - never interact with another human because you might get germs. However, photographers are not producing a few oil-on-canvas works of art each year, they are producing tens of thousands of images a year - often thousands of images from one day. You do the math - $45 per registration multiplied by 500 images and guess what? You're essentially convincing photographers that it is not economically sound to register.

It's easy to sit in a Park Avenue apartment dreaming up ideas that you shill like a turn-of-the-century snake-oil salesman, as the owners of the dubiously named Copyright Registry seem to be doing. Yet this ivory tower mentality has almost no real world application, and is not rooted in reality.

(Continued after the Jump)

It seems they are trying to scare you into using some poorly thought out product they offer that will somehow automate the process of "governmental copyright registration", as if there is any other type! They suggest
"A la carte, individual registration eliminates the efficiency of bulk registering all the images of a photo shoot or project or calendar year and adds a significant logistical burden to creators."
And then in the next sentence hold themselves out as the solution
"This is one reason why image registries like are growing rapidly."
Filing images in any way, either by somehow uploading all your images to their system or an online gallery (as if these are not a logistical burden in and of themselves!) does absolutely NOTHING to protect your images from infringement. The only proper protection is actual registration at the accurately named Copyright Office. It sounds misleading at best to say in a video tutorial "Site Protector is the easiest way to register your images with the Copyright Registry". Someone who doesn't know any better could be duped into thinking that doing this actually gives you "copyright registration". It DOES NOT. By writing "governmental copyright registration" they seem to be suggesting that "copyright registration" without the modifier "governmental" is somehow worth anything, and thus, they suggest with language like "register your images with the copyright registry" you should be using their service, almost to the point that you might actually think you have actually filed a real copyright registration that is actually worth something. YOU HAVE NOT.

Statistics speak volumes about the realities of copyright registration. Fewer than 5% of all professional photographers have ever registered their work with the US Copyright Office, and fewer than about 2% register with any regularity. This blatantly unrealistic and bad advice about registering one image at a time just further demonstrates how out of touch the dubiously named Copyright Registry is.

Let's start with a "Best Practice" that the dubiously named Copyright Registry and I can agree on - you should be registering your work. Second, we both can agree that, as they admit about the two ideas put forther in their blog article "neither of these approaches is practical". Let's be perfectly clear here then - you are suggesting a "best practice" is NOT PRACTICAL? That then makes it not a best practice, since you can't practice it practically. This idea isn't just out in left field, it's standing with its' mitt in the parking out outside the stadium wondering why no pop flies are coming over the stadium walls.

To paraphrase the game Monopoly, which, when sending you to jail says "do not pass go, do not collect $200", I say "Do not spew forth impractical and inaccurate advice to photographers on copyright. Do not draw photographers into an ill-conceived flim-flam of an idea that is almost certain to fail them when they would most need it. By then you'll be on to your next money-losing charade."

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Peter Wine said...

This reminds me of the "star registry."

They say things like "name a star after someone," as if sending them money does anything at all to get a star named.

What they do is pubish your 'pretend star name' in a book.

I wonder if this is the same group.

Rich Green said...

Registering unpublished images - I realize that this option is on a case by case by photographer basis - is absolutely the easiest thing to do, regardless of the online Copyright office confusing interface. I regularly register 1000s of images at a time and only for $35. I recognize that this creates limitations on using photos - if you want to publish one on your blog immediately, you can't without putting the image into the "published" category - but even then, you can group publish those images as long as it's within 90 days for full protection. We all have locks on our cars and houses. Why wouldn't you want to protect your intellectual property?

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