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Authors Can Register Copyright in Multiple Short Online Works Together Starting August 17

Starting August 17, 2020, authors will be able to register the text of up to 50 “short online works” (such as blog posts or articles under 17,500 words) with the U.S. Copyright Office using a single registration application and with a single filing fee of $65. Previously, this option to register multiple works with one application and filing fee was only available for pieces that were unpublished or published as “contributions to periodicals”—namely newspapers, magazines, newsletters, or other “regularly scheduled” mediums. Online works and other works that did not fit the Office’s narrow definition of “contributions to periodicals” had to be registered individually, each with a separate filing fee of $35 or $55. The cost and effort required to register online works individually meant that writers did not register most online works and were deprived of the benefits of copyright registration, including statutory damages and attorneys’ fees.

The new group registration option for short online works confers a significant benefit on all writers working in the digital space, and is the result of two years of advocacy efforts by the Authors Guild and other author groups, who prompted it through a May 2018 joint request that the Office consider a new group registration option for short literary works. Our recommendations to the Copyright Office on a preliminary version of the rule were cited in the final rule and persuaded the Office to lower the minimum word count for qualifying works from 100 to 50 words, allow applicants to upload a large number of works in a single .ZIP file as opposed to individual files, and prioritize the creation of additional instructional materials for authors interested in registering their short online works.

Here is what applicants need to know about the new group registration option:

Eligibility Requirements:

  • The group of works must contain at least two and up to 50 separate works.
  • Registrable works must be between 50 and 17,500 words.
  • Registration is limited only to the text that appears in the works; artwork, photographs, and other media do not qualify for registration.
  • The works must first be published as part of a website or online platform, or be published simultaneously online and in physical form; unpublished works and works published only in physical form—including works published in physical form before being published online—do not qualify.
  • All of the works in the group must have been published within a period of three consecutive months.
  • All works in the group must have the same author or co-authors.
  • The author or co-authors must be named as the claimant(s) for each work, even if the author(s) are not the current owners of the copyrights in the works.
  • The works cannot be works made for hire.
  • A title must be provided for each work in the group, as well as for the group as a whole.
  • A website or online platform itself does not qualify for registration under this group; nor do emails, podcasts, audiobooks, computer programs, compilations, or collective works.

Application Requirements:

  • Authors must submit their applications through the Office’s Electronic Copyright Office Registration System.
  • Applications must include a copy of each work in the group, with a separate folder for each work. All files must be in the same file format; a list of acceptable file formats can be found here.
  • Applications must also include a separate numbered list providing the title, file name, publication date, and word count for each work. Applicants are strongly encouraged to use the Office’s fillable form for their title list, though it is not required.
  • The file name for each work must match the title of the work provided on the title list.
  • All application files, including the title list, must be uploaded in a single .ZIP folder not exceeding 500 MB. Files may be compressed if necessary in order to satisfy the 500 MB limit. The application will include a link to a video tutorial showing applicants how to create and upload .ZIP folders.

The Copyright Office has also provided resources and guides for authors, including an introduction to the new rule, a webinar presentation on the application process, and a set of frequently asked questions.

Authors Guild members can contact us for more information or help navigating the new application process. In addition, for a small fee that includes the filing fee and the Guild’s costs, our legal team can register on your behalf.