April 15, 2020
Like other governmental and private entities, the U.S. Copyright Office has made some changes in response to the impact of COVID-19. It has altered some of its processes and extended some deadlines, recognizing that many copyright holders and registration applicants may not be able to comply with current timetables and mailing deadlines.
Registration Refusal: Ordinarily, when the USCO refuses a registration application, the refusal letter is mailed to the applicant. Because most USCO staff are working remotely (as are most of us these days), the examiners cannot send hard-copy letters. Therefore, to ensure that applicants receive a timely registration decision, the Office will send these refusal letters via email to the email address provided in the registration application. The Office will provide instructions for responding to a refusal in a PDF attached to the refusal email. If the applicant wishes to ask the Office to reconsider its refusal decision, this request must be submitted to the Office according to the instructions set out in the PDF and should not be sent by reply email.
Requests for Reconsideration: If the applicant wants to request reconsideration of the refusal, the applicant should follow the instructions in the PDF attached to the refusal email; and the Office will respond to the email address provided in that reconsideration request. Responses to first requests for reconsideration will include instructions on how to submit a second request for reconsideration.
Email Submissions: To assist those who may be currently unable to send physical mail, the Office is now permitting submissions by email for certain services, including not only requests for reconsideration of refusals to register, but filing notices of termination for recordation and requests for removal of personally identifiable information from the public record.
Special (Expedited) Handling of Applications: Where time is of the essence, copyright holders may request special (i.e., expedited) handling for their registration applications. For electronic applications with digital deposits, the Office will examine the special handling claims within five working days if the applicant submits an electronic application, pays the filing fee and the additional fee for special handling, and uploads a digital deposit to the eCO system. Physical deposits should still be submitted where required, but to ensure examination within 5 business days, an electronic deposit must also be uploaded.
Submission of Electronic Deposits Required to Ensure Timely Review: For electronic applications where physical deposits are required, applicants must submit an electronic application, pay the filing and the additional fee for special handling, print the shipping slip, attach it to the physical deposit, and then mail the physical deposit and shipping slip to the Copyright Office. The Office can examine these claims during the shutdown, however, only if the applicant also uploads a digital copy of that same work through the eCO system. The electronic upload must be accompanied by a declaration or similar statement certifying, under penalty of perjury, that the content of the digital deposit is identical to the physical deposit that has been sent to the Copyright Office. If an applicant is unable to submit a required physical deposit, the applicant should upload, together with the application, a declaration or similar statement certifying, under penalty of perjury, that the applicant is unable to submit the physical deposit and would have done so but for the national emergency, and setting forth satisfactory evidence in support. Further details about the length of the extension and what will constitute “satisfactory evidence” are stated here. If the applicant doesn’t upload a digital copy, the Office will not examine the claim until staff are permitted to return to the Library of Congress’s building.
Changed Registration Timing for Statutory Remedies: Under copyright law, a copyright owner generally can only receive statutory damages if the work is registered prior to the infringement, or within three months of the work’s first publication; that’s why the Guild has such three-month language in its Model Trade Contract. Since some copyright owners may currently be unable to complete and submit their copyright applications in that time, the Acting Register is temporarily adjusting the procedures and timing provisions for applications that can’t be completed electronically (such as where a physical deposit is required). These adjustments are set forth on the Copyright Office’s Coronavirus page.
Inability to File During Shutdown: If an applicant is unable to submit an application either electronically or physically during the disruption, the applicant may submit an application after the Acting Register has announced the end of the disruption, and include a declaration or similar statement certifying, under penalty of perjury, that the applicant was unable to submit an application electronically or physically and would have done so but for the national emergency, and providing satisfactory evidence in support. Further details about the length of the extension and what will constitute “satisfactory evidence” are stated here.
Timing Requirements for Serving and Recording Notices of Termination: Under Sections 203 and 304(c) of the Copyright Act, under certain circumstances individual authors may reclaim copyright interests that they previously transferred to another party. In general, an author may terminate a transfer within a specific five-year window, provided the author serves notice as required on the transferee and files that notice with the Copyright Office.
If a termination notice must be served during the disturbance, some authors may be unable to do that because they can’t access the underlying agreement or they may be otherwise unable to comply with the service and filing requirements due to the national emergency. Other authors may be limited in their ability to record notices with the Copyright Office before the date of termination.
The Acting Register will therefore temporarily adjust the Sections 203 and 304(c) timing requirements to the extent they apply to persons affected by the national emergency. These adjustments are set out here.
We will continue to monitor the Office for additional changes to its procedures, and will update this page accordingly.