Protecting your intellectual property as a creative individual is something of great importance in today’s world of copycat infringement. Your ideas are unique, innovative, a product of your hard work, so you deserve the credit! Copyrights were created for that reason, and we’re here to explain one aspect of copywriting in particular: protecting your designs on printed merchandise.

Image: Copyright CafePress

What is the Copyright Act?

Copyright.gov explains that the Act consists of “pictorial, graphic and sculptural works include two-dimensional and three-dimensional works of fine, graphic and applied art, photographs, prints and art reproductions, maps, globes, charts, diagrams, models and technical drawings, including architectural plans.” Paintings, sculptures, photographs and anything that satisfies visual artwork could fall into this category, as well.

5 Steps to Copyrighting

Once the creator files to protect their original creations, which must be “fixed in a tangible medium of expression,” and also exist in physical form according to Printful.com, the copyright goes into immediate effect. Authors can register their group of works on printed merchandise of no more than 10 unpublished items by the same person. 

1. See If You’re Eligible

Copyright.gov has strict eligibility requirements in place in order to register a group of unpublished works. You will have to confirm that you understand and meet these requirements before registering with your application and filing fee.

2. Create an Electronic Copyright Office (eCO) Account 

Once your account is created, you will then go through the steps to file under the Register a Group of Unpublished Works tab. Review the registration process, and if your works again meet the eligibility criteria, you can then begin registration.

3. Submit Your Work

Go through the prompts and submit your work. If you’re unsure of where your work fits into which category, description and eligibility requirements will be provided. You can submit up to 10 works in the same category. Follow with the completion screen, authors, special handling, certification, etc. 

4. Review Your Submission

You will be able to review your entire copyright submission. Go back and make changes, if necessary, to ensure your work is properly protected.

5. Submit Payment and Upload Files

After your payment is submitted, you will receive an email confirming receipt of application and payment. You must also upload your files to the application database. Pay close attention to what types of files the database will accept. Do not print a slip and mail in anything. Everything must be done electronically.

For detailed information on how to copyright your printed merchandise, visit https://stream-media.loc.gov/copyright/gruw.mp4.

Til Death Do We Part — And Beyond

You may be asking, “Is my work protected after I’m dead?” Yes! Prinful.com says anything published before 1923 is public domain, not protected by copyright. Works published between 1922 and 1978 get 95 years of protection after publication, and anything after 1977 is protected for the entire lifespan of the creator plus 70 additional years after death.  

What’s your copyright experience? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

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