Copyright is automatic, and has been since 1989. You do not need to take any special steps to be the sole legal owner of your own work. However, there are certain legal benefits to be obtained by registering your copyright with your national government. At the very least, it will of course be easier to prove that the work is your own if it contains a copyright notice or other clear assertion that the work was created by and belongs to you. For example, this web page is Copyright 2003, Boutell.Com, Inc.
Protecting images from theft is an interesting challenge; no method is 100% effective, but it is possible to "watermark" your images to ensure that you can prove that they were stolen. For more information, see the entry on protecting your images.
Copyright can be a very powerful tool. Although the most common copyright "license statement" is the familiar phrase "All Rights Reserved," you can choose to grant or deny others the right to use your work in particular ways or for particular purposes. For more information, see how should I license my work?
For more information about copyright law, see the United States Copyright Office Copyright Frequently Asked Questions list.
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