I want to copyright a photo I took at an event and sent to some friends by e-mail. One friend has taken this photo without my permission and is making 1,000 copies for distribution at a gathering. He did not ask for my permission, and I had no knowledge of this action until yesterday. Please advise me about copyright laws and if I can get this photo copyrighted before it is distributed.

– John H. Lullo

The boom in digital photography and the ease of copying photos as files and sending them helter-skelter over the Internet generates renewed interest in the arcane procedure known as copyright, as your situation illustrates, Mr. L.

Lawyers like to pick bones, and the first thing you’ll be told is that you already own the copyright to original work as soon as it is completed. Registering a copyright with the U.S. government affirms that you are the creator, and the registration could be used in a lawsuit to get your friend to stop passing it around or to pay a fee.

The basics are that you need to fill out a Form VA (Visual Arts) for the United States Copyright Office and send it, along with a $30 filing fee, to Washington. The form is available as an Adobe Acrobat file at www.copyright.gov/forms/formvai.pdf, and there are complete instructions for what information to furnish. Also in the envelope must be a copy of the photograph.

You will find that the government stopped requiring a copyrighted work to contain the “Copyright by … ” mark in 1989, so there is no need to add a notice to the picture. Experts recommend, however, that photographers add a small notice to each image to give them proof that somebody took a work while knowing that it was somebody else’s copyright.

At $30 a pop, registering copyrights for each image one snaps is out of the question; so unless you think you’ve got next year’s Pulitzer Prize photo on your computer, Mr. L., the cost and bother aren’t worth it until after a dispute arises.

A lot of writers and photo pros put copies of their masterpieces in an envelope, seal it and then mail it to themselves and keep it unopened in hopes that this will be dated evidence that they created it, should a dispute arise.

The Copyright Office site at www.copyright.gov/ includes specifics for all kinds of material such as unpublished books, published works, photos, statues, holograms and you name it.

While the Web site makes it all seem pretty simple, you will learn that things get horribly complex as soon as any dispute arises.

Because of what my computer calls missing components of Active X, I have not been able to open many of the subscriptions that I have. I always used to be able to do these things. I did have Mozilla Firefox installed, and because that seemed to be related to my problems, I uninstalled all of it and just have Internet Explorer now but still can’t do these things. I’d really appreciate it if you could help.

-Virginia Cieslewicz

There are two things that may be getting in the way between you and the content of those Web sites you want to use, Ms. C. First of all, the Microsoft Internet Explorer Web browser quite often will not automatically display pop-ups and other elements of Web sites that need to download tiny programs in so-called Active X. Instead the Internet Explorer will display a very light yellow line just below the tool bar at the top of the screen, and you’ll need to click on that line to accept the Active X downloads. Do that once for a site, and it will work OK in the future.

Second, however, is confusion created because Mozilla’s Firefox browser does not include Active X but uses special sub-programs called plug-ins to display such stuff as coupon box pop-ups and animated graphics.

Sometimes using Firefox can cause Active X settings in the Microsoft Internet Explorer to be changed.

So, if your problem isn’t fixed by seeking out those yellow line prompts when Internet Explorer is on your screen, look at your machine’s numerous Active X settings for possible problems.

In the Microsoft Internet Explorer click on Tools and then Internet Options and then open the tab for Security on the menu that pops up – if you’ll pardon the expression.

There are a number of possible behaviors for Active X that can be enabled or disabled under the Security menu, so you’ll need to do a bit of trial and error.

Got a question? Send a note to Jim Coates at [email protected]