The APWS is the official insignia of the FBI and the US Department of Justice. It was designed to help detect and deter criminal violations of US intellectual property laws through public education of the laws and the FBI's authority to enforce them.
You might have noticed this seal before on DVD movies, and some software, for example. In the past, the use of this seal was only available to the entertainment and software industries. Now, in the US, all copyright owners may use the seal, as long as they follow the appropriate regulations for the seal's use, which can be found in 41 CFR Section 128-1.5009.
The APWS Seal can only appear on works that meet all of the following requirements:
- The work must be copyright protected (Please note that copyright registration is not a requirement to use the seal), and all images are copyrighted the moment you create them,
- The work is subject to protection under US Criminal Code provisions, and
- The work wouldn't violate federal law if produced, sold, publicly presented, or distributed by mail or in affecting interstate commerce.
Part of the use requirements of the APWS is that the below statement must be placed immediately adjacent to the APWS on the copyrighted work. Supposedly several alternate forms of this warning language will be made available soon.
“The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of a copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by fines and federal imprisonment.”Personally, I don't intend to place the APWS on my photographs. I think it's far too distracting and hurts photographs' appearance too much to use. That being said, I think the APWS does have its uses for photographers.
For example, if you look on the lower right of each of my NSL Photography Blog pages, you will find the APWS and the required warning right below the seal. My Blog is copyrighted, and so I think this is an appropriate use of the APWS.
If you go to my NSL Photography galleries, you will find the APWS with the warning text at the bottom of every gallery page. As with the Blog, my entire gallery website is copyrighted.
While the APWS can help protect your images, remember it's only one tool in a large arsenal of tools you should be using to protect your images. Don't depend on it alone.
The information in this article is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.