I just recently finished getting two books copyrighted. The forms seem a little daunting at first but they fill out pretty easily.

The address is:
Register of Copyrights
Copyright Office
Library of cogress
Washington, D.C. 20559-6000

or the URL is:

According to info sent me from the bureau, actually, you can combine a series as a portfolio for the same price in a copyright registration, as long as they are connected. My info is a little dated, so check on current requirements. Things might have changed.

The three books I did for Viking Studio were illustrated anthologies of quotes, so --while not *exactly* on point-- I think I can give you an idea of how to proceed.

The copyrights on the quote books are most likely for the compilations themselves-- in other words, *you* could not publish the same collection of quotes (P.D. or not) in the same order, with the same chapter headings.

Whether or not the individual quote *itself* is in the public domain can probably be discovered by looking at the "Acknowledgements" or "Credits" page in any anthology or compilation. It should note the copyright owner of the work. In general, if the acknowledgement says "Used by courtesy of...", it was a free permission by the owner of a copyrighted work. Public domain quotes won't make it on to the acknowledgements pages, because it isn't necessary-- public domain works belong to us all! If there isn't such a page, the rule of thumb is that copyright protection exists for the author's life + 50 years---so, you can always look up the date of death & see if you're dealing with copyrighted quotes that way. One caveat here-- this isn't always the case. For instance, Little, Brown owns a fair amount of the poetry of Emily Dickinson; the British Crown owns the rights to the King James version of the Bible.

The other fly in this ointment is the "Fair Use" argument-- is the quote you want to use a very small section of a much larger work? Would your use of this quote in any way compromise the rights of ownership of the copyright holder? (We wanted to use 25 words out of a several-hundred page memoir by Gloria Steinem in "An Awakening Spirit"-- we wrote a "permission" letter, which she granted, but had to pay for the use of the quote!)

If you have any doubt at all about whether you can use a quote, write a permission letter (I think there is a form letter you can use in Writers' Market.) Generally, say what you want to use, how you want to use it, how many copies of the book {or greeting card, bookmark, whatever you're creating} you expect will be published using the quote, and ask the copyright holder for permission to use it. Often, you will receive permission for free, or for a nominal sum. Sometimes, the author will want a LOT of money, and then you just don't use it if you don't want to pay for it. (We ran into this problem with a May Sarton piece on Christmas that we absolutely *loved*-- but she wanted $800 for it, and that would have busted the permissions budget, which we carved out of our advance. So we used a decidely inferior James Greenleaf Whittier Christmas poem instead...*sigh*)

If you're doing these cards as samples, not for publication, the "Fair Use" argument applies for copyrighted works (because you are not in any way damaging the copyright holders' right to derive an income from their property). However, if you were to sell these cards to a publisher with the copyrighted quotes in place, you'd need to clear permissions on them with the copyright owners.

I hope this clarifies it a bit-- if I've left something out, just ask!

Peace & joy,

"What do you mean by registering with the copyright office? The web site or your art works?"

I register all my designs and paintings with the copyright office in groups as I produce them - pay a fee of $20 for each group. I used to register individually and found this way cheaper as I produce several groups of new work during the year for the trade shows I exhibit in.


Hey, Listbuds, If I use a photo from National Geographic as reference, how much do I need to change to not have to worry about copyright? What if I use the same pose with slight variations in age or something? Anyone know the legal side of this?


Latest issue of Artist's Magazine has an article on this. It's more stringent than I least for painters. They show examples of images 'caught'..and I thought the changes were pretty good - but not. I'd heard 30% for electronic imaging. Pretty strick penalties for copyright infringment. There are tons of CD's out there with 100s, 1,000s of images where you buy one time use of an image and do what you case you need an option.


LEs, I called the US Copyright Office Forms Hotline at (202) 707-9100 (available 24 hours) to order a Form VA for both greeting cards and cartoons. Also got an information packet.

There is a lawyer in The Artist's Magazine, Joshua Kaufman from Washington, D.C. who writes a monthly column on copyright and trademark issues. A couple of weeks ago someone else mentioned his article on copying in the November issue.



"Kevan, do you know about the renewal? Just noticed a small note in the inside that after so many years, it has to be renewed...? THAT could use the help of a lawyer, unless you know the answer, oh master of knowledge 'n stuff..."

IN the very simplest terms, no. You don't need to renew it as long as you are actively pursuing business with the TM. You can file and get a TM for a business or product that you INTEND to use, but if you don't use the TM in 2 years you have to renew/reapply for it. That is to keep people from filing for and acquiring lots of TMs for the sole purpose of selling them to people looking to secure a particular TM later. Make sense?


A great book is called TRADEMARK: HOW TO NAME A BUSINESS & PRODUCT by Kate McGrath & Stephen Elias from Nolo Press. Very informative and easy to understand. Also, the US Governments trademark office is at

A lot of good information there too. Successful TM searches take lots and lots and lots and lots of research. Or else a good lawyer . . .


Trade Name Registration
1375 Sherman Street
Denver, CO 80261


This is the Library of Congress form page

-- Kelly Cheek 12/17/98 10:35am

"A friend asked a question concerning some art she has done and I thought I would refer it to you. Hopefully it's a quick and simple answer that will not require a great deal of research.

'If I've done pieces based on existing works of literature, can I sell prints of those artworks? Some of the images are based on L. Frank Baum's OZ books, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Dark is Rising, etc.' "

If you are creating a derivative work based on a work that is still under copyright protection, then you must get written permission from the author of that work. It is the exclusive right of an author to create a derivative of their creation or grant permission for someone else to create this derivative. This information goes into better detail in the Copyright Office Publlication, Circular #14, Copyright Registration for Derivative Works. This circular is available on the Copyright Office website:

Date: Fri, 18 Dec 1998 10:21:34 EST
Subject: Re: illustration: copyright

I'm pretty sure you can't sell art based on copyrighted books...though Disney went to court and got Winnie the Pooh away from family of author. I remember doing a job on Peter Rabbit for a client...we had to change to Peter Cottontail because family wouldn't even sell the rights. They maintain absolute control of the character and image. In grad school I was told to check and make sure copyright had run out on a book before illustrating it for resale. (Prof suggested illustrators who don't write could do books that way)

Good luck,

Date: Mon, 25 Jan 1999 09:41:03 -0800
From: Paul Basista
Subject: Re: illustration: Making a gif from pre-existing photos.

Under US Copyright Law, you may be putting yourself at risk if you use the photograph you described. Works are in the "public domain" if they fall out of copyright or if the copyright has expired. For works created after 1909 but before 1978, you can assume the copyright is 75 years. If the photograph was created after 1924, you should treat it as if it was protected. You are probably correct that the publisher holds the rights to the image, but that's not 100% sure -- the photographer could be the rightsholder.

How much do you have to "change" an image before its ok? The correct answer is 100%. The courts would rely on the opinion of an average citizen to determine whether the image you publish is a copy of the original photograph. If you really love the image, the easiest thing to do is contact the publisher and request permission to use it the way you intend. It may cost a little, but it's worth it.

I'm not mistaken, this is precisely the kind of use described in the "fair use" portion of the US Copyright statute-- in other words, if an artist's images are used to illustrate an article about the artist's work, the publisher has the right to use those images without further compensation to the artist.

I'm not sure if the contemplated use as a cover is a factor in this, though one can certainly try to make the argument-- I'd love to hear what the the rest of you have to say on this.

Perhaps a solution would be to allow free use of the image on the cover in return for a number of free copies of the magazine you can use as promotional materials-- say, 200 copies? This way, the magazine isn't put off from using the image on the cover, and the artist has a unique and potentially very valuable piece of self-promotion. I think that's the compromise I'd try to strike--

Peace & joy,

Date: Sun, 31 Jan 1999 14:13:06 +0100
From: Tom Byrne
Subject: Re: illustration: art on cover question...

I asked some advice on the issue of whether or not you were being taken advantage of at the GAG site. I did not post your name but I did post the details of the email you sent. Here are some of the responses.

Polly Law (
Date: Saturday, January 30, 1999 03:24 PM

This does not fall under fair use and the artist would be foolish to let them use the image w/o compensation. He is doing it for the exposure-well, a person can die from exposure.

Fair use does not apply to commercial situations like this one. This artist needs to be educated, this artist needs to join the Guild.

Polly M. Law

Daniel Abraham (
Date: Saturday, January 30, 1999 04:53 PM

Polly is correct; this is not a fair use situation.

"Fair use" is a defense against infringement. See Section 107 of the copyright law, which is accessible by linking to the law through the Copyright Office homepage from the Guild page.

Fair use is permitted for criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (in a scholastic setting, that is; NOT in an "instructional" for-profit magazine), scholarship or research. A court will determine if a use is fair, i.e., whether a use which would otherwise be an infringement will not be held to be one, taking into consideration the following factors;

1) The purpose and character of the use, including whether it is commercial or for nonprofit educational purposes;

2) The nature of the copyrighted work;

3) The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the work as a whole; and

4) The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the work.

Note that none of the factors above deal with an interior drawing being used on a cover. I myself consider an outtake from an interior drawing being used in the table of contents as within the scope of the use payment, but I do not consider re-use of outtakes as spots throughout the article itself to be covered by a single payment for a one- or half-page drawing. For use on a cover, which is typically a separate large commission, I do not consider a payment for interior use to be sufficient.

An artist may decide that the exposure itself, and a stack of tearsheets, is sufficient payment, but I disagree. If the artist did not agree, the magazine would have to pay another fee for cover art.

Here is another useful site:

On this site you can do an online search of all federal and state registered marks for a fee:

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