Last month, the U.S. Copyright Office announced a new group registration option for short online literary works, which will allow creators to save money when registering blogs, articles, and other short text-based works. Applications for this new group registration option are expected to become available August 17, 2020, but the Office notes that unanticipated delays in system development could impact that date. There will be a public announcement when this option officially becomes available to applicants. (Update: this group registration option became available on October 29, 2020)
The New Group Registration
When this new application does become available, authors of short text-based works (between 50 and 17,500 words) that are published online will finally be able to register those works together in one group using a single application with a single filing fee. This new group registration option will make the registration process more convenient and less costly for the many authors who create a high volume of short-text works, as well as for the Copyright Office in examining and processing the applications.
Applicants will be able to access and submit applications through the electronic registration system (eCO). Applications must be filed online through this system, but the Office will waive the electronic filing requirement upon written request in rare, exceptional circumstances. The Office will host a webinar to provide guidance on using the online application and answer questions-happening next week, registration is available here-and will include instructional text within the application itself.
If the eligibility requirements (laid out below) are met, applicants may register up to 50 works with one application and filing fee. Through the online application, applicants will upload a .ZIP file containing a separate digital file for each work. If accepted, the registration will cover each work as a separate work of authorship.
To be eligible to use this new group registration option, several requirements must be met:
- Each work must contain at least 50 but no more than 17,500 words.
- The works must be created by the same individual, or jointly by the same individuals, and each author must be named as the copyright claimant or claimants for each work.
- The works must all be published online, as part of a website or other online platform. (A work would satisfy this requirement if it was first published online or simultaneously published online and in a physical form; but not if it was first published in a physical form and then subsequently published online.)
- The works must all be published within a three-calendar-month period.
- The works cannot be comprised mainly of numbers or other verbal or numerical symbols or indicia. The Copyright Office says that it will accept works that contain text combined with another form of authorship, but not ones that are in any form other than “text,” due to the additional time and effort necessary to examine such works.
- Works made for hire are not eligible for the new group registration option at this time. (While the Office is open to considering possible avenues through which it could extend this group registration option to certain corporate authors in the future, it does not have the tools necessary to do right now.)
Joint authors, be wary! If applicants wish to register jointly authored works using this option, all works listed in the application must be jointly authored by the same authors. For example, a group consisting of ten works jointly authored by the same two individuals, plus one additional literary work authored by those persons and a third co-author, would not be eligible. The Office intends to strictly enforce this requirement to ensure an efficient registration process. And since applications for joint works that do not comply with this requirement will be refused without correspondence from the Office applicants of jointly authored works should take special care to get this correct.
Applicants should note that the Office has not yet created a supplementary registration form for this group registration option. Therefore, if applicants wish to correct or supplement an application, they should contact the Office of Registration Policy & Practice to obtain instructions on how to do so.
The filing fee for one application is set to be $65, the same as the standard application fee. However, given that the Office now has greater flexibility to adjust fees specifically for this option, it has said that it will gather additional data to determine if this amount should be adjusted once the option is implemented.
Other Group Registration Options for Published Works
The Office also provides group registration options for other types of published works, including:
The Copyright Office continues to explore ways to make copyright registration more accessible and affordable for creators. We appreciate the Copyright Office’s efforts in implementing group registrations like this one that help achieve that goal. For more information about copyright registration, check out our FAQs on registration.