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Copyright Office Modernization

The Music Modernization Act has been on everyone’s mind as we await the launch of the Mechanical Licensing Collective’s database on January 1, 2021. www.themlc.com What may be less exciting but desperately needed is the modernization of the U.S. Copyright Office. Many changes have occurred in the past few months, including increased fees as of March 20, 2020 (https://www.copyright.gov/about/fees.html) and changes in the way certain works are registered. Among the changed forms are group registrations of works, changes of particular importance to songwriters and photographers.

A group of ten unpublished works may be registered in a single application with one fee of $65 provided certain requirements are met. All ten works must be created by the same author or the same joint authors, and the author or joint authors also must be the copyright claimant (the owner(s)). The claim to copyright in each work must be the same, and each one has to be registered in the same administrative class. For example, two songwriters may register the ten songs they co-wrote as long as both writers are both the authors and claimants. The application is made online, and with rare exception, the ten works must be uploaded at the time of the application. This rule change helps individual creators or small businesses who otherwise might not register the individual works due to the cost. Instead of costing $650 for ten works, it is now$65.

Photographers also benefit from Copyright Office rule changes. As of February 20,2018, rules were changed regarding groups of published photographs. At the same time, the rule established a similar procedure for groups of unpublished photographs. The newish requirement is that applicants must submit applications (whether for published or unpublished photographs) through the e-filing system with up to 750 photographs in each claim. The deposit requirement is satisfied when the applicant uploads the files through the electronic system. The rule confirms that a group registration issued under GRPPH or GRUPH (group of published/unpublished photographs) covers each photo in the group, each is registered as a separate work, and the group is not considered a compilation or a collective work. Again, this change affords a big cost savings.

These rule changes encourage and allow creators to obtain the protections afforded by copyright registration of their works which previously may have been cost prohibitive. See https://www.copyright.gov/rulemaking/group-unpublished/ https://www.copyright.gov/rulemaking/group-photographs/.

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Ramona P. DeSalvo