How To Save Time & Money Registering a Copyright?

Full Question: Do you have any recommendations for saving money or moving a registration application more quickly through the registration process? Are there any common mistakes by registrants that can be easily avoided?

Answer: To save money and time during the registration process, we strongly recommend registering your work using the online application. Currently, a standard electronic application costs $55.00, while a paper submission costs $85.00.

In addition, we strongly recommend that all applicants provide a current and accurate email address when applying (either online or via our paper forms). In almost all cases, the Office will attempt to contact an applicant via email if there are any questions or problems with your application. Failure to provide an accurate email address or to monitor the email address you have provided may result in undue delay in your registration or closing the claim due to the failure to reply to the Examiner’s email correspondence. All email correspondence about applications for registration from the Office will be from the address: cop-ad@loc.gov. If you have a spam filter, it is advisable to add this address to your spam filter’s “Whitelist,” sometimes called the Approved or Safe Sender’s List.

Regarding common mistakes, we see many types of problems. Some of them are related to particular types of works and misunderstanding about legal terms used in the application, and are too numerous to list. However, some of the more common mistakes applicants make leading to correspondence with the Office include:

  • Misunderstanding the legal concept of a “work made for hire;”
  • Mistakes excluding preexisting material from the claim, or in the explanation of the new authorship that they are seeking to register; and,
  • Including a large number of vague authorship terms that are not perceptible in the deposit, or referring to elements that are not protected by copyright, such as “editing,” “layout,” “idea for a TV show,” or “concept for a book.”

Our first major effort in guiding creators, practitioners, the public, and the courts about the Office’s registration practices was the revision of the Compendium, which was finalized in December of 2014 after several years of work. The Compendium revision process involved a thorough audit of registration practices, an alignment of all practices with the Copyright Act, the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Feist Publications, Inc. v. Rural Telephone Service Co., 499 U.S. 340 (1991), and existing regulations, and a harmonization of these practices across all three Registration Divisions to ensure consistent application of policies and practices. This is a living document that will be updated this year to include any corrections, enhancements, clarifications, and regulatory changes that have been discovered or have occurred since the initial publication. This 1222-page document, while lengthy, is extremely readable and informative. We strongly encourage you to consult it to assist with questions that may arise. As you will note, many of the answers provided refer to more information that is contained within particular chapters or sections in the Compendium.

As an additional intermediate step, we are working on creating a Registration Portal on the Office’s website to provide FAQs for particular types of authorship. Our hope is that by providing more creator-specific answers to questions, we might be able to help applicants avoid problems. Our goal would be to build upon an initial series of creator-specific FAQs from questions we receive (like this list, which may very well be added to our FAQs) and recurring problems we discover.

Our ultimate goal is to create new online applications. See, Strategic Plan 2016-2020: Positioning the United States Copyright Office for the Future, available at: https://copyright.gov/reports/strategic-plan/sp2016-2020.html. We are confident that the best way to minimize problems is to create better applications. There may also be significant benefits in creating different types of applications. For instance, an updated online version of our standard paper applications could be quickly completed online by knowledgeable applicants and submitted electronically, ideally, from one’s cell phone. Another version of the application would simply ask factual questions about the work(s) that you are seeking to register and generate an application based on your answers that you could review before submitting electronically.

We are currently working on the intermediate step now, because it is all that we can currently afford to accomplish. However, the Office has recently published a comprehensive Provisional Information Technology Modernization Plan and Cost Analysis (“IT Plan”) available on the Office’s website at: https://copyright.gov/reports/itplan that, if funded, would pave the way for a 21st Century U.S. Copyright Office, a new IT architectural platform, and new methods of online registration. We are doing the best we can with what we currently have, but we are very hopeful that we will soon be able to deliver wholly new and better applications for registration.

Answered by:

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