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Receiving Registration: 8 to 12 Months

Full Question: Why does it take 8 to 12 months to receive a copyright registration?

Answer: Over the past several years the Registration Program has suffered a severe reduction in staff. In 2010, there were 125 copyright Examiners in the Registration Program (which includes the Literary Division, the Performing Arts Division, and the Visual Arts Division). By 2015, the number of copyright Examiners had fallen to 73 and the Office was not able to backfill these positions due to budgetary constraints and sequestration. Over the past three years, the Office received funding to replenish the number of copyright Examiners. In 2015, the Office hired twelve new Examiners; in 2016, twenty-three examiners, and in 2017, an additional twelve examiners. Each group of examiners, however, had to be trained to become professional, independent copyright Examiners. To accomplish this, veteran Examiners were required to assist in training and providing quality assurance review of all the work of the new Examiners. Moreover, all new Examiners undergo training regarding the legal requirements of registration as well registration practices as set forth in the Compendium. While the groups of new examiners hired in 2015 and 2016 are now fully independent, we are still in the process of training the Examiners hired this past year. Thus, while the Office has hired new Examiners the past three years, resources are still stretched thin because of the continuing need to train new Examiners and the annual loss of veteran Examiners through attrition. The Office hopes to get ahead of this training and attrition curve by fiscal year 2019 with the continuing support of Congress.

Congress has provided additional spending authority to the Office to hire an additional 13 Examiners this fiscal year and we expect to backfill an addition 12 Examiners lost through attrition. This would provide the Office with 130 Examiners and the Office hopes to gain an additional 15 Examiners in 2019.

The Office has attempted to offset the understaffing by authorizing overtime work for existing Examiners, but this is obviously not a long-term solution. We have made significant progress in the last year. Since April of 2017, the Registration Program has reduced the backlog of pending claims by two-thirds and that reduction is beginning to have the effect of decreasing pendency times. For instance, for electronic claims without correspondence, the current average pendency time is 6 months. Although we currently have 105 copyright Examiners, the Registration Program is still below 2010 Examiner levels. We will endeavor to increase efficiencies within the Registration Program, but this cannot be done at the expense of quality. Providing high-quality, efficient examination is the core goal of the Registration Program.

Answered by :

Rob Kasunic, Director of Registration Policy and Practices at the U.S. Copyright Office.