Are Lightroom Presets Copyrighted?

Copyright is a major issue that permeates creative industries. Even presets for photos can be copyrighted, and users can run into legal trouble when they use these presets incorrectly. With this in mind, are Lightroom presets copyrighted?

Lightroom presets can be copyrighted, but the choice is up to individual creators. In other words, unless a user places copyright on their preset manually, it is not copyrighted.

Copyright ensures that others do not claim your creative content as their own. So, read on to find out more about copyrighted presets in Lightroom.

Do Lightroom Presets Have Copyright on Them?

Lightroom presets are not copyrighted unless users manually put a copyright on them through settings.

To copyright a preset in Lightroom, you have to follow the below steps: 

  1. Open the Metadata panel in the Lightroom app
  2. Navigate to Edit Presets in the panel
  3. When the Edit Presets dialog box opens, under the IPTC Copyright section, change the copyright status to Copyrighted and input your desired usage terms in the Rights Usage Terms section
  4. Fill in the IPTC creator section with the contact information you want 
  5. When you are finished completing the sections, press Done to save them
  6. Navigate to Save As and give the now copyrighted preset a name 

You can copyright the preset at two different stages of creation: when importing it into lightroom and adding it to existing photos. Let’s go over the steps to add the copyright during the import process.

Adding a Copyright to a Lightroom Preset During Import

When you are importing something, navigate to the Apply During Import Panel and select the preset you made in the Metadata dropdown menu. Once you do this, the copyright will be added to any new presets you create in the future.

This same process can be followed to apply the copyright preset to multiple presets at once. This saves time since you do not have to manually add the copyright each time.

The Importance of Copyright

Copyright on all creative products is crucial because it allows the creator to protect their work from being used without their permission. Without copyright, the creative world would lack originality because people could take credit for the creation of others and claim it as their own.

Copyright is part of federal law and it stems from Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution, and the U.S Copyright Office oversees copyright law and the Supreme Court enforces it. When creatives get copyright, it only lasts for several years, and then they have to apply to get their copyright renewed.

Anything from written works to pieces of architecture can receive copyright. However, there are also many things prohibited from copyright, such as ideas, slogans, and speeches given by someone that were not written down or recorded. When someone owns the copyright on something, their rights are:

  • They can reproduce the work
  • They can distribute the work
  • They can create new work based on the copyrighted material
  • They can perform and or display the work in public depending on the medium

Copyright does not last forever, and it is up to the copyright owners to maintain their copyright for as long as they need it. 

What Happens When Copyright Expires?

Unless a copyright is renewed after it expires, the copyrighted material is transferred to the public domain, where it is fair game for anyone to use as they see fit, Copyright rules vary for each medium of work. They all have different lengths that the copyright is active for, meaning that you have to renew them at different times.

On another note, there is the optional process of registering your copyright with the US Copyright Office. Although this is not required for official copyright, it gives you the added benefit of being able to pursue legal action if you become a victim of copyright infringement. According to the law, you must report your case within three years to go to court.

Always pursue legal claims against someone for stealing your work as soon as possible to have the maximum probability of success. If you can work with a lawyer, they can help you take action against the perpetrator without going to court as well.

Is a Copyright the Same as a Watermark?

In the US, pictures typically have automatic copyright protection. A watermark is not the same as copyright, A watermark is a graphic or signature placed over images to remind people not to steal your work. Watermarks make it harder for people to duplicate images because the signature is all over them.

Have you ever tried to find an image for a Powerpoint, only to have the one you like covered in a white font that says Shuttershock? This is an example of a watermark.

There is extra protection in the form of a law that makes it illegal to remove watermarks from images. This is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. 

Is a Copyright Better Than a Watermark?

Copyrights are inherently better and more secure than copyrights because watermarks do not have copyright protection. Without copyright, people can still steal your work. There are many stories from artists on Instagram where users have attempted to remove or write over the current watermark on a photo and pass it off as their own.

Now, watermarks can be added as extra protection on top of a copyrighted piece if you want extra protection. When you receive legal copyright and you register it with the US Copyright Office, you can also legally defend your copyright through a lawsuit. If you win the case, this will give you a financial settlement, and having the perpetrator pay you damages will discourage stealing.


Lightroom presets are not copyrighted unless the user adds the copyright manually or enables the option for automatic copyright. Copyrights ensure that people cannot take credit for your creation and they are more effective than watermarks. Without copyrights, there would be a lack of originality in creation.