Copyright Office Releases New Applications for Group Registration of Photographs

The U.S. Copyright Office recently issued a final rule on group registration of photographs, which will take effect on February 20, 2018. The rule modifies the Office’s procedure for registering published photographs, and it establishes a similar procedure for registering unpublished photographs.

To seek a group registration, beginning February 20, 2018, applicants will be required to use the online applications specifically designated for published and unpublished photographs and will be required to submit a digital copy of each photograph being registered.

The Office released these new applications on February 7, 2018, to give photographers an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the new forms before the rule goes into effect. The Office also prepared help text that provides step-by-step instructions for completing each application. See help text for published and unpublished.

Important Note: Although these new applications have been made available to the public and can start to be filled out and prepared for submission at this time, they should not actually be used to submit any claims until the final rule goes into effect. If the Office receives any claims on these forms before that date, the effective date of registration will be reset to February 20, 2018.

As mentioned in the final rule, applicants will be required to prepare and submit a list containing the titles and file names for each photograph in a group, along with a copy of each photograph in the group. The Office developed templates that may be used to prepare this list. See templates for published and unpublished. The help text mentioned above provides detailed instructions for using these templates.

More information concerning these upgrades to the electronic registration system is available here. When the final rule goes into effect on February 20, 2018 the Office intends to issue a new circular that will provide more information concerning these group registration options.

In the meantime, photographers may continue to use the Standard Application or a paper application to register a group of published photographs or a “collection” of unpublished photographs, but the claim must be received by February 19, 2018. If an applicant attempts to use the Standard Application or a paper application on or after February 20, 2018, the Office will refuse registration and instruct the applicant to resubmit the claim using the appropriate form.

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Plan Ahead: Copyright Office Electronic Registration System to Be Offline for Maintenance

Currently, you may submit an unlimited number of photographs as an unpublished collection, or, if you use the pilot program, for published photographs, through the Electronic Copyright Office (eCO) System. But that all changes on February 20 when registrations will be limited to 750 photos each.

If you’re trying to get your backlog registered before the change, note that the eCO system will be offline for maintenance from 5:00 p.m. eastern time on Thursday, February 15 until 9:00 p.m. eastern time on Monday, February 19.

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Copyright Office Introduces Online Group Registration of Photographs

As part of its continued efforts to modernize its services, the U.S. Copyright Office announces that, as of February 20, 2018, it will begin accepting applications for group registration of photographs through the Office’s online registration system. In most cases, applicants will generally be required to file such applications online, and may include up to 750 photographs in each claim. The Office has also made other changes to streamline the practices relating to group registration of photographs, described in a final rule published in the Federal Register today. The Office believes that these changes will make it significantly easier for photographers to register their works with the Copyright Office. The Office will be releasing the application on its online registration system (eCO) prior to the effective date to provide users with time to familiarize themselves with the new form.

CHECK Leslie Burn’s post for great tips on the new registration rules.

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eCO Improvements

eCO website homepage

Today, the U.S. Copyright Office implemented a series of technical upgrades to its electronic registration system. The upgrades:

  • reorganize the home screen for the eCO system;
  • remove the three questions that previously directed applicants to the Standard Application or the Single Application;
  • introduce a new and improved version of the Single Application;
  • modify the authorship statements in the application for registering a serial publication; and
  • add a new feature that will allow certain file types to be uploaded to the electronic registration system, while blocking unacceptable file types.

These improvements are designed to enhance the user experience and increase the efficiency of the examination of these claims. More information about these technical upgrades is available here.

In addition, the Copyright Office has released an updated circular that provides detailed information about the new version of the Single Application.

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Update on Proposed Legislation to Limit Number of Unpublished Works per Registration

As an update to the Nov. 1 blog entry, we have good news! According to Robert J. Kasunic, the Associate Register of Copyrights and Director of Registration Policy & Practice, the concern for photographers about the proposal to limit the number of unpublished works per application is unwarranted. He states:

[U]nder the Group Registration of Photographs Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”), group registration of photographs would be limited to 750 photographs rather than the five works proposed under the new Group Registration of Unpublished Works. We are still working on the Group Registration of Photographs final rule in conjunction with the public comments received in that rulemaking. In any case, we fully intend to finalize that rule before finalizing the Group Registration of Unpublished Works final rule for which we are still accepting comments until November 13, 2017. So the bottom line is that we have never intended to limit a group of unpublished photographs to five photographs, but rather the number we proposed for a group of unpublished photographs was 750. The Group Unpublished Works would not be applicable to photographers unless, for some reason, a photographer wanted to register two to five photographs.

(emphasis added).

Jeff Sedlik also reports that a new form, “GRUPH” (Group Registration of Unpublished Photographs), will be made available in the near future to provide for registrations specific to photographers.

In the meantime, photographers should follow current eCO instructions for group registrations. Whew!

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UPDATE to Copyright Office proposes limiting registration for unpublished works to only five

UPDATE!  See the November 3 blog for additional information.

Currently, you may register an unlimited number of photographs on one copyright registration application if the photographs are a collection of unpublished works by the same author and owned by the same claimant. See the Compendium at section 1119. That’s especially helpful to photographers (who often take thousands of photographs), because the registration fee is $55 for each such application.

However, the U.S. Copyright Office is proposing to limit the number of unpublished works per application. In the Office’s announcement about the new rule, it stated:

The proposed rule would replace the current “unpublished collections” registration option. Among other things, applicants would be required to submit an online application and upload their works to the electronic registration system, although the Office may waive these requirements in exceptional cases.

The proposed rule offers a number of significant benefits compared to current practices: it would allow the Office to more easily examine each work for copyrightable authorship, to create a more robust record of the claim, and to improve the overall efficiency of the registration process.

What the Office failed to mention in its announcement is that the proposed rule will limit the number of works per application to only five. See the Federal Register at https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2017-10-12/pdf/2017-21722.pdf. That would make it much more expensive for photographers to register their unpublished photographs.

What’s strange is that the Copyright Office allows you to register an unlimited number of published photographs on the same application as long as they were published in the same year. See the Compendium at 1116.1. So a photographer could publish photographs on a website and register thousands of published photos on a single application to avoid the effect of this proposed rule. But this seems an unnecessary burden.

Please let the Copyright Office know that you oppose the proposed rule. Leave your comments here by November 13, 2017, at 11:59 p.m., eastern time.

HT: David Oppenheimer

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Copyright Office Proposes Rule to Establish a Group Registration for Unpublished Works

The United States Copyright Office is proposing to create a new group registration option for a limited number of unpublished works. The proposed rule would replace the current “unpublished collections” registration option. Among other things, applicants would be required to submit an online application and upload their works to the electronic registration system, although the Office may waive these requirements in exceptional cases.

The proposed rule offers a number of significant benefits compared to current practices: it would allow the Office to more easily examine each work for copyrightable authorship, to create a more robust record of the claim, and to improve the overall efficiency of the registration process.

The notice of proposed rulemaking and instructions on how to submit a comment are available here. Written comments must be received no later than November 13, 2017, at 11:59 p.m. Eastern time.

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U.S. Copyright Office Releases Updated Version of the Compendium of U.S. Copyright Office Practices, Third Edition

Acting Register of Copyrights Karyn Temple Claggett today released an updated version of the Compendium of U.S. Copyright Office Practices, Third Edition. It is available on the Office’s website at https://www.copyright.gov/comp3/. This update is effective as of September 29, 2017, and it is the governing administrative manual for registrations and recordations issued by the U.S. Copyright Office on or after that date.

The Compendium is the administrative manual of the Register of Copyrights concerning the mandate and statutory duties of the Copyright Office under Title 17 of the United States Code. See 37 CFR. § 201.2(b)(7).

This update was initially released in draft form on June 1, 2017. The Office received comments on the draft from three organizations and four individuals. After carefully reviewing these comments, the Office revised twenty-one sections of the Compendium. For information concerning these revisions, read more. A complete list of all sections that have been added, amended, revised, or removed is posted on the Office’s website.

This version of the Compendium has been reformatted to improve readability for online and offline users. The update also includes improved hyperlinks to provide readers with direct access to the statute, regulations, and resources on the Office’s website, as well as improved cross-references between chapters.

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Copyright Office Begins Release of Refreshed and Updated Circulars

The U.S. Copyright Office today begins its release of refreshed and updated circulars to provide up-to-date and authoritative copyright information for a broad general audience. This release of 31 circulars represents a wide range of topics including copyright fundamentals, core Office procedures, Licensing Division practices, and work-specific application tips. These circulars are subject to two notable changes: (1) reformatting for optimal online reading and (2) revision to conform to the third edition of the Compendium of U.S. Copyright Office Practices. Circulars have served as a gateway to copyright law and Office practices since the late 1800s, and this is the first design update in more than a decade.

Remaining circulars will be released on a rolling basis through the end of 2017. The updated circulars are available here, and a table of topics can be found here.

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Don’t be bound by Binded.com

The copyright world is abuzz about a new copyright registration service at Binded.com. But don’t be fooled — there’s a reason that Binded can claim:

What used to take 20 minutes on copyright.gov, takes 9 seconds on Binded.

That’s because Binded doesn’t make sure that it’s registering your copyright correctly.

Most important, Binded never asks whether you are registering “published” photographs, and, if so, when and where they were first published. Binded doesn’t warn you that a published photos can registered as a group only if they were published within the same calendar year.

In its FAQ, Binded states: “If you’ve already published your image you still benefit by having a copyright record and our monitoring feature.” Binded doesn’t explain that using its service will not give you a valid copyright registration. You don’t need Binded to give you “proof of creation.” Other companies offer an image search for free, so you don’t need Binded’s “monitoring.”

Even if you’re registering unpublished photos, Binded doesn’t ask for the year of completion (the year that you took the most recent photograph of the group of photos being registered). While Binded maybe able to derive the year by the metadata of the photos, that’s not always correct.

Binded also doesn’t ask what is your nation of citizenship or domicile, which is required by the US Copyright Office. While Binded may make a guess from your address, that’s not always the same. Binded reveals towards the bottom of its FAQ page that its service is not for “work for hire” or collaborative works. It’s not for derivative works, either.

Binded apparently has plans to try to collect damages for infringement of your photos. It warns that it can change its terms of service at any time, so it may try to lock you into using its infringement services.

Note that once you use Binded’s service, your photos will forever be on the bitcoin blockchain.

Registering using the eCO sysem is not difficult or lengthy (especially for unpublished photos) and there are good articles on how to do it. It can be done quickly especially after you create a template for your registrations.

The first thing that an infringer will do is to attempt to invalidate your registration. You might as well keep your $$$ and save your time before registering your copyrights incorrectly.

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