How to Copyright a Drawing

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Copyright is the legal right which an author or artist holds in her original creative works, such as a drawing. Copyright includes the right to reproduce, print or publish the work; to make derivative, sequel or related works from it; and to display or perform the work. An artist holds the copyright on a drawing from the minute it is fixed in a tangible medium. To protect that copyright, however, you will have to register your creative work with the U.S. Copyright Office.

Step 1

Execute your drawing in a tangible form. Ideas can not be copyrighted until they are actually physically created. Then, create an electronic image file of your drawing by scanning it or taking a digital photograph of it. The U.S. Copyright Office electronic registration program accepts most common digital image formats including .gif, .pdf and .jpg. Have a means of electronic payment--credit card or PayPal account information--handy, and log on to

Step 2

Click on the "Electronic Copyright Office" (eCO) button on the upper right hand side of your screen, under the title, How to Register a Work. The first line of text on this section includes options for viewing a copyright registration tutorial in either a PowerPoint or .pdf format. Select one of these tutorials, as it will walk you step-by-step through the screens to be completed from the eCO website.

Step 3

After watching the eCO registration tutorial, create an eCO access account. This process is simple, comprising three screens of basic name-and-address information which you will only need to complete once. You will not need to make any payment at this point in time.

Step 4

After creating an eCO access account, click on "Log In" to eCO, then select "Continue" to eCO after reading the security information. On the menu on the right hand side of your screen, under the heading Copyright Services, click on "Register a New Claim". This presents you with three steps: Complete Application, Make Payment, and Submit Work. Click on the "Start Registration" button, and eCO will guide you through the electronic application process to complete your copyright registration on line, including making a $35 filing fee payment, and uploading the digital image of your drawing.

Step 5

If lack of access to an appropriate computer or some other issue prevents you from completing the Copyright registration online through the eCO, the U.S. Copyright Office presents two other options: a fill-in form on the Copyright Office website, or paper forms, which you may either print out from the Copyright Office website, or order by mail. The registration fee for hard-paper filings is $45, and the process may take slightly longer.


  • The U.S. Copyright Office does not enforce your copyright. It is up to you to protect your registered copyright by periodically checking through web searches or other means for your name and reproductions of images you have created. If you find someone has used a drawing you have created without your permission, you can bring a lawsuit against them, or take that matter to the local branch of the United States Attorneys Office and request criminal prosecution where appropriate.
  • Remember, you can only register the copyright for works which you yourself have created, or if you have legally obtained the copyright by written agreement with the original artist.


  • Copyright in the United States for works created after January 1978 lasts for the life of the artist plus 70 years.
  • Copyright law varies from country to country. If you have created a work outside the United States, be sure to check your local laws for copyright rules and protections.



About the Author

A freelance writer since 1978 and attorney since 1981, Cindy Hill has won awards for articles on organic agriculture and wild foods, and has published widely in the areas of law, public policy, local foods and gardening. She holds a B.A. in political science from State University of New York and a Master of Environmental Law and a J.D. from Vermont Law School.