Starting this month, social media influencers and other authors of online content can take advantage of a new group copyright registration option for short online works such as blog entries, social media posts and web articles. Authors could even register their own comments to a social post as separate copyrightable works in certain situations.
The U.S. Copyright Office announced that the new registration option allows applications covering groups of up to 50 literary works if those works meet the eligibility requirements. Most notably, each separate work must contain between 50 and 17,500 words, and all works in a single application must be created by the same individual, or jointly by the same group of individuals (although there is no limit on the number of applications that can be filed). In addition, all works must have been first published as part of a website or online platform, such as an online newspaper, social media website or social networking platform, and all works in a single application must have been first published within the same three calendar month period. Copyright claims in the selection, coordination or arrangement of the group as a whole will not be permitted. Resulting registrations will cover each work as a separate work of authorship.
The final version of the new rule largely adopts the eligibility requirements set forth in the Copyright Office’s December 2018 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. However, several groups, including The Authors Guild and the Copyright Alliance, had expressed concern with the proposed rule regarding the intended beneficiaries, potential adverse effects on interpretations of current copyright requirements, as well as the integrity of the public record of copyright ownership. In response, the Copyright Office maintained that the new option is intentionally narrow, and is specifically designed to serve daily bloggers and other individual writers who create and publish a high volume of short works online but do not have the time or resources to register those works under the existing system. For example, the new process does not allow registration of works made for hire or assigned works; the original author must be named as the copyright claimant.
The Copyright Office will prepare an online tutorial to provide guidance on using the new application, and will update the sections of the Compendium of U.S. Copyright Office Practices that discuss current procedures for group registration to address this new option. Once available, the new group registration option can be found here.