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How Do You Copyright a Painting or an Idea?

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Copyright in a Painting Image: ©2007 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc
Question: How Do You Copyright a Painting or an Idea?
Answer: As soon as you've created something in a tangible form, you have copyright on it. If it's still an idea, you can't copyright it, but as soon as you've painted it, you have copyright on it but, importantly, it's the way you've executed the idea that can be copyrighted, not the idea itself. You don't need to register copyright for it to exist. If you've created something for an employer or as work for hire, copyright belongs to them. (Though in the US to sue for copyright infringement, registration makes it less tricky.)

A good way to make the ownership of copyright clear to anyone who buys a painting from you is to do what contemporary artist Karen McConnell does: "I sell most all of my original paintings with a 'Statement of Value' which includes (1) date of sale (2) price paid (3) whether it was purchased framed or unframed and (4) notice that copyright for the work remains with the artist. At the bottom of the form is a place for dated signatures from both myself and the purchaser. I keep a copy, they keep a copy." Another option is to create a certificate of authenticity that includes information about your copyright on it.

Go to Full Artist's Copyright FAQ.

Disclaimer: The information given here is based on US copyright law and is given for guidance only; you're advised to consult a copyright lawyer on copyright issues.

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