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Copyright Filing For Short Works

The U.S. Copyright Office announced the new application form for authors for “short online literary works” including but not limited to articles, blog posts, social media posts, comments, and possibly tweets.

The idea of protecting short works or as it may have been suggested, copyrightable tweets, seemed tedious, expensive, and unnecessary to most writers. However, this may change with the introduction of the Group Registration For Short Online Literary Works (GRTX). Instead of  filing separate applications to protect each blog post, or article under copyright law, eligible works can be grouped together. Applicants can register up to 50 “short online literary works” published online in one copyright application for a filing fee of $65.

What are the requirements to file under GRTX?

  • The word count of the works must be between 50-17,500 words.
  • The works must be written by the same individual, or co-written by the same individuals.
  • All writers or authors of the work must be named as copyright claimant or claimants for each work.
  • The applicant must include a title for each work (the Copyright office has developed a fillable form to assist you to create the title list).
  • The applicant must include a title for the group work.
  • The works must be first published online within a three-calendar period (so it must not have been published in a physical form).
  • Works made for hire by an employee or an independent contractor do not qualify for GRTX.

What is the process to register the works?

  • Complete the online application for “Short Online Literary Work” through the electronic registration system (eCO);
  • Submit the nonrefundable filing fees; and
  • Upload a ZIP file containing a separate digital copy of each work.

The GRTX makes copyright registration accessible, cheaper, and faster to many digital media writers, bloggers, and authors.  Undoubtedly, GRTX is a step in the right direction but registrants should be conscious of the following factors:

  1. The works must only contain text, any non-text materials such as photographs, sounds etc. will not be included in the copyright registration and would have to be registered separately.
  2. What constitutes as “published” under the GRTX? The distinction between “published” and “unpublished” has always been a mindboggling one. According to the S. Copyright Office Compendium Section 1008.3(B) “As a general rule, the Office does not consider a work to be published if it is merely displayed or performed online, unless the author or copyright owner clearly authorized the reproduction or distribution of that work, or clearly offered to distribute the work to a group of intermediaries for purposes of further distribution, public performance, or public display.” Writers should keep in mind that for their works to be considered “published”, they should noticeably allow readers to share their works.
  3. The authors must be individuals, therefore, small business entities that may suffer from economic challenges such as nonprofit organizations or small businesses cannot benefit from the GRTX registration.
  4. For those using the copyrighted works, there is a question of whether a potential infringer could successfully rely on the de minimis defense when the work itself is so short.

The U.S. Copyright Office released the new application on October 29th, hopefully the Copyright Office will provide further clarification and guidance to the application requirements soon.

The above article is for general information purposes only and should not be relied upon as specific legal advice. This article, or contacting Apex, does not in any way form an attorney-client relationship. If you have any questions or would like to learn more, please contact Maha Jafarey at maha@apexlg.com.

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