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Authors – Are You Registering Copyright in Your Short Online Writing?

blog on computer screen
blog on computer screen

Last year, the Copyright Office launched Group Registration for Short Online Literary Works (GRTX). Group registration allows copyright owners to register multiple works with a single application and fee. Through GRTX, authors can register up to 50 short works (between 50 and 17,500 words) that were initially published online within a three-month period as a group using a single application and filing fee. Examples of works that qualify include short stories, poems, articles, columns, essays, blog entries, and social media posts.

GRTX was created at the behest of the Authors Guild and other writer organizations and is meant to supplement the group registration of contributions to periodicals enacted with the 1976 Copyright Act that allows authors to register all their articles published in periodicals within a 12-month period as a group. The Copyright Office does not consider most online forums for publishing articles or other short text works to be “periodicals,” necessitating a new group registration option for authors to register their online works.

Here are some key points to know before filing:

Who does it help?

Anyone who writes and publishes short-form works online can benefit from this new group registration option. GRTX is especially useful for journalists, freelance web writers, and writers who post short stories on the internet. Before the GRTX application, these authors often didn’t have the time or the means to file single applications for each of their works, and thus were unfortunately denied the benefits of registration. The GRTX has filled this much-needed gap, and authors of shorter works who publish online now have a streamlined process to secure registration.

What are the benefits of registration?

Copyright registration puts others on notice of your ownership of the work. It is also a prerequisite for bringing copyright infringement lawsuits, and if the works are registered within three months of publication or prior to the infringement, registration allows the copyright owner to collect statutory damages and attorney’s fees in an infringement suit. This is crucial since it is costly and difficult to establish actual damages, and quite often an actual damage award will not even cover the attorney’s fees and other costs of the litigation.

What kind of works are eligible?

  • Any textual work. If the textual works included in the GRTX application also include artwork, photographs, or other media on the work, those other works will not be registered, and you will need to submit a different application to secure copyright in those works.
  • The works must be initially published online, such as on a website or online platform, or they may be published simultaneously online and in physical form.
  • All of the works in the group must have been published within a period of three consecutive months.
  • All of the works must be written by the same author or co-authors.
  • Individually, the works to be registered cannot be over 17,500 words or under 50 words.

How much does it cost?

The application fee is $65.

How can I access the application? What is the process?

The application is available through the Copyright Office’s online application portal. The Copyright Office also has a dedicated page on its website with instructions on how to complete the application and other helpful resources, including webinars that break down the application step by step.

Authors whose works qualify for the GRTX option must: 1) complete the application, 2) submit a $65 nonrefundable filing fee per application, 3) upload a ZIP folder containing individual copies of each work in the group, and 4) prepare and upload a fillable form that contains the title, filename, publication date, and word count for each work.

We encourage all authors of short online works to take advantage of this special registration group. If you need assistance completing an application and are an Authors Guild member, please send us a query through our website. In addition, for a small fee that includes the filing fee and the Guild’s costs, our legal team can register on your behalf.