While official copyright registration typically involves fees, there are preliminary steps you can take to protect your artwork without incurring substantial costs. Here are a few suggestions on how to copyright artwork for free:

Recognize automatic copyright

  • Be aware that each country may have different copyright regulations. Artwork is automatically covered by copyright in the US as soon as it is made. This indicates that you can benefit from copyright protection without registering or paying a fee. However, formal registration can come with further advantages, such the capacity to file a lawsuit and demand statutory damages.

Make use of copyright notices

  • Although not necessary, including a copyright notice or symbol to your artwork can assist in alerting online viewers about your legal rights and serve to thwart possible infringers. It usually includes the copyright owner’s name, the year of first publication, and the copyright sign. For example: © 2023 Your Name.

Keep records

  •  It’s essential to maintain comprehensive records of your artwork, including creation dates, sketches, drafts, and any other evidence that demonstrates your authorship. These records can be helpful in proving your ownership in case of a dispute.

Consider using Creative Commons licenses

  • Creative Commons licenses allow you to specify the permissions granted to others regarding your artwork. You can choose a license that suits your preferences, whether you want to allow others to use, modify, or distribute your work with certain conditions. These licenses are free and can provide some level of protection while enabling you to share your artwork with others.

Utilize online platforms

  • Many online platforms and communities for artists provide tools and features that can help protect your artwork and scan the web for plagiarism. For instance, some platforms allow you to watermark your images, set usage permissions, or track instances of unauthorized use. While these measures may not offer the same legal weight as copyright registration, they can act as deterrents and help you assert your rights especially in the age of AI-generated art.


If you opt to pursue formal copyright registration, it’s best to consult with an intellectual property attorney or contact the copyright office for guidance.

Disclaimer: Nothing in this article shall be construed as legal advice.


The Michelson Institute for Intellectual Property, an initiative of the Michelson 20MM Foundation, provides access to empowering IP education for budding inventors and entrepreneurs. Michelson 20MM was founded thanks to the generous support of renowned spinal surgeon Dr. Gary K. Michelson and Alya Michelson. To learn more, visit 20mm.org.