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Gone With the Old: New Rules for Group Registration of Newspapers

Gone With the Old: New Rules for Group Registration of Newspapers by Rachel Kim

February 6, 2018

In September, 2016, the trade association for newspapers in the U.S. changed its name from the Newspaper Association of America to the News Media Alliance, a change reflecting “the news media industry’s evolution to multi-platform, digitally-savvy businesses and premium content providers.” But in contrast to the industry’s move to modernize in the digital age, the process for these publishers to register and deposit their newspapers with the U.S. Copyright Office remained stuck in the analog age.

Fortunately, that is beginning to change, as the Copyright Office recently published a rule, which takes effect on March 1, 2018, that will update registration and deposit requirements for newspapers. The initial Notice of Proposed Rulemaking was published back in November to which the Copyright Alliance and the News Media Alliance submitted public comments.

The new rule aims to increase the efficiency and ease the burdens of registering and depositing large volumes of newspapers. The Copyright Alliance commends the Copyright Office and Library of Congress for the new rule—particularly moving away from requiring deposits on microfilm (yes, microfilm!), a requirement we have long argued causes a financial and administrative burden on newspaper copyright owners. We also welcome the rule’s extension of the group registration option to more newspaper publishers and modernization of the registration process for large volumes of newspapers.

Here are the four main changes and clarifications to take away from the new regulation.

Electronic Registrations and Digital Deposits Required: Microfilms Phased Out

Gone are the old methods of paper registrations and microfilm deposits. The new rule clarifies that the submission of digital deposits in group registrations of newspapers satisfies the mandatory deposit requirement, and specifically requires registrants to electronically submit registrations and deposit a PDF format of each issue in the group.

However, registrants may continue to submit microfilm copies until December 31, 2019. If submitted digital deposits are defective (e.g., missing pages, etc.), the Register may use the additional microfilm deposits to cure and supplement the defective digital deposits.

Extending the Group Registration Option to More Newspapers

Under the current rule, group registrations for newspapers were only available to newspaper publishers whose publications were selected by the Library of Congress to be included in its collections. The new rule no longer uses this list and broadens the availability of group registrations so it is accessible to more newspaper publishers.

Clarifying and Confirming Existing Copyright Office Practices

Though the rule will now require registrants to file their application within three months after the publication of the earliest issue in the group, most of it confirms existing Copyright Office practices regarding group registration of newspapers. Registrants must make sure that each issue in the group registration is published in the same calendar month, has been created as a work made for hire with the same person or organization named as the copyright claimant, and is a new collective work that has not previously been published.

The rule also clarifies that a group registration will not classify the group as a whole as a derivative work, compilation, or collective work. Additionally, a group registration will also cover registration for each individual issue in the group and for each contribution (e.g., an individual photograph, illustration, etc.) in each issue, if it was first published in that issue and fully owned by the copyright claimant.

Library of Congress Provides Limited Access to Digital Deposits

The new rule states that the Library of Congress may provide limited public access to the digital deposits of newspapers submitted in the group registrations. At any one time, only two authorized users may access these digital deposits on the Library of Congress’ premises. Library of Congress staff will also be able to access the deposits “off-site as part of their assigned duties via a secure connection.”

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