Under new Copyright Office rules, it’s now easier to register a copyright for short online works like blog entries and social media posts.
As defined by the Copyright Office,
A short online literary work contains between 50 and 17,500 words, and is first published as part of a website or online platform, including online newspapers, social media websites, and social networking platforms. Examples of short online literary works include poems, short stories, articles, essays, columns, blog entries, and social media posts.
Emails, podcasts, audiobooks, and computer programs may not be registered under the new program even if they would otherwise qualify based on the length and online publication.
Photos, illustrations, and other visual materials may not be registered using the new process, but these materials may still be registered using the Standard Application.
Generally, copyright registration covers an individual work, and a separate application must be submitted for each work. However, there are several options for registering multiple works with one registration, as the Copyright Office explains:
- When a number of separate and independent contributions are assembled into a collective whole (collective works)
- When multiple unpublished works, serials, newspapers, newsletters, contributions to periodicals, photographs, database updates, or secure test items meet Copyright Office requirements for registration on one application (group registrations)
- When multiple works are physically bundled or packaged together and first published as an integrated unit (unit of publication)
- When the copyright claimant for a sound recording and the musical, literary, or dramatic work embodied in the recording is the same individual or organization
The newest option is called Group Registration for Short Online Literary Works (GRTX).
Up to 50 short online literary works may be registered with one application and filing fee, under the following conditions:
- Each work contains at least 50 but no more than 17,500 words.
- The works are first published online within a three-calendar-month period.
- The applicant must provide the earliest publication date and the most recent publication date for the works in the group.
- Each work is written by the same individual author or co-written by the same joint authors. (Note: works made for hire are not eligible for this group registration option.)
- Each author is named as the claimant for all the works, and the claim is limited to the “text” that appears in each work.
- The applicant includes a title for each work.
- The applicant includes a title for the group as a whole
Each work submitted must be contained in a separate digital file with a file name that exactly matches the title listed on the application. Then, the works must be compressed into a ZIP folder and uploaded via the Copyright Office’s online registration system.
Works can be submitted any time during the term of copyright (currently the life of the author plus 70 years), but there are advantages to registering within three months of publications – or at least prior to the infringement. These advantages include the availability of statutory damages and attorney’s fees to the copyright holder if an infringement lawsuit is successful.
Copyright protection exists from the moment that a work of authorship is fixed in a tangible medium of expression – such as being written on paper or saved on a computer hard drive. However, an author of a work can’t sue for infringement until a work is submitted to the copyright office for registration and that application is accepted.
This is a relatively recent interpretation of the law. As we discussed in this blog, in Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corp. v. Wall-Street.com, the issue before the US Supreme Court was whether a plaintiff must have a valid copyright registration before filing a copyright infringement suit, or only needed a pending copyright application. The Court ruled that the latter was the case.
Applicants will need to use a new registration form specifically for GRTX, which was released on October 29.
Copyright.gov website includes a number of detailed video tutorials that guide applicants in how to fill out the form.
As with other forms of copyright registration, applicants don’t need to use a lawyer to register a copyright, although many choose to do so.
Just like the haiku above, we like to keep our posts short and sweet. Hopefully, you found this bite-sized information helpful. If you would like more information, please do not hesitate to contact us here.