By Suzanna M. M. Morales
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A rule proposed by the U.S. Copyright office could soon make it easier for individual writers like bloggers and freelancers to register copyrights for up to fifty online literary works with a single filing.

The proposed rule would allow a single individual to register up to fifty separate short literary works that are first published online. The proposed filing fee would be $55 for the entire filing. This should be compared with the current $35 filing fee for each single work. If the proposed rule is enacted, it would result in savings of up to $1,695 for registering fifty works as a group rather than through single work applications.

Proposed Registration Requirements

Under the proposed rules, a short work would be 100 to 17,500 words. This length requirement would exclude short phrases, such as Tweets, on one end, and novellas, on the other. Failure to comply with the length requirement may result in rejection of the entire application.

The works must be created by a single individual, and cannot be works made for hire.

The resulting registration would cover only the literary works. Any accompanying materials, such as artwork or photography, would not be protected by the registration. The proposal would require the application to be submitted online, attaching the works, unless the applicant is able to prove exceptional circumstances requiring a waiver of the online filing requirement.

In order to qualify for registration under the proposal, the works must be first published online, even if they are later published in another format. However, it would not be necessary for all of the works to be published on the same website or online platform. The works must also all be published within a three-month period.

Criticisms by Authors’ Groups

In publicly-available comments submitted in response to the Copyright Office’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the Authors Guild noted that authors may not have control over whether their works are first published online or in print, and may not even know whether their works are made available in a way that constitutes “publication” under U.S. Copyright Law. The Authors Guild also requested that the word limit be broadened from 100-17,500 to 50-40,000 to accommodate short blog posts and poems on the one hand and long-form journalism and short fiction on the other.

Comments by the National Writers Union suggested that a single application should cover 500 works, rather than 100, noting that group registrations for photographs can cover up to 750 works. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America noted that the proposed rule would not cover collaborations by multiple authors.

Our firm will continue to follow this proposed rule and will provide updates on relevant developments.