First I want to say that I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advise.
However I have been reading about this subject and wanted to share the knowledge with you.
I am first going to give you the bottom line and then I will go into more detail in the second post. Both posts are written for international artists. I will mention when things are specifically for a certain country.
Although I try to make sure this applies to everyone and is accurate I don't speak all languages and can make mistakes.
---The Bottom Line---
Protect Your Work!!
Also use a resolution lower than 300 ppi. 72 ppi works perfectly well for showing your work online and limits what someone can do with it.
None of these things will absolutely protect your work it just makes it harder for someone to steal, it takes more effort, and in case of a lawsuit harder for them to claim that they didn't know it was your work and was copyrighted.
If someone is using your work without your permission write a cease and desist letter or submit a DMCA take down notice with the website host. Typically that resolves the problem if that fails you will probably have to go to court.
If you want to sue someone for using your work you have to register with the copyright office (this is true for most countries, but not all). There is no work around, no if or but. If you want to sue in the U.S. and a few other countries you have to register your work period.
For you to own the rights to your work or to be copyrightable it must be:
1. Original. Not just a painting version of a photograph.
2. Exhibits minimal creativity.
3. Fixed in a tangible form of expression. Files on your hard drive count.
4. It must not be a Work For Hire.
It is a Work for Hire:
1. When an employee performs or creates work for the employer within the scope of the employee's job. You are considered an employee of the company if they pay your Social Security taxes and/or provide you with benefits
2. When work is commissioned and the agreement is in writing.
Selling your Rights to your artwork is a good way to make money. Just because you sell an painting or photograph doesn't mean you sell your rights to the painting or photograph.
Make sure you are specific as to what rights you are selling and for how long.
Typically there are 3 types of transfers.
1. Exclusive license- a transfer of one or more of the rights
2. Nonexclusive license- allowing someone the right to exercise one or more of the rights on a nonexclusive basis. This is not a transfer of copyright ownership.
3. Assignment license- a transfer of all the exclusive rights in a copyright.
Be careful of emailing or posting your work online. Facebook has a nonexclusive license to anything you post on their site. Most mail services will claim the same for anything you email. CA is the exceptional exception.
Okay so the next post will go into detail about copyright. Feel free to ask questions and share your own experiences/ solutions.