Protect Your Blogs and Posts: Copyright Office Announces New Group Registration Process for Short Online Literary Works

By: Howard Zaharoff

Good things come to those who register their copyrights, including the rights to sue for infringement (you can claim copyright in any original work, but you can sue for infringement only if you’ve registered the work with the Copyright Office) and to recover statutory damages and attorneys’ fees when your registered work is infringed.

Though registration is straightforward and reasonably cheap – if you write books or other lengthy works and complete only one or two works a year – it can be time-consuming and costly if your medium is short internet blogs or posts. So if you’re a blogger, influencer or other author of short online content, how do you make copyright registration worth it? The Copyright Office has an answer in the form of a new regulation on the group registration of short online literary works (37 CFR §202.4).

This new registration option allows authors to use one application and filing fee (currently $65) for up to 50 works while obtaining copyright rights in the text of each individual work. (But note, works like emails, podcasts, audiobooks, and computer programs, as well as non-textual works such as photos and videos, cannot be registered with this group application.)

To qualify for group registration, each work must:

  • contain between 50 and 17,500 words;
  • consist mostly of text;
  • be written by the same author or co-written by the same authors;
  • have the author(s) named as the copyright claimant for each work (thus no works made for hire);
  • be published as part of a website or online platform (such as online newspapers, social media websites, and social networking platforms); and
  • be published within the same three-calendar-month period.

The application requirements include:

  • a title for each covered work and for the group as a whole;
  • a sequentially numbered list with the title, first publication date, and word count for each covered work (a fillable form is available on the Copyright Office’s website);
  • a deposit copy as a zip file with separate files for each work identified by title; and
  • filing through the Copyright Office electronic copyright registration system (eCO). 

Because registering a copyright is relatively inexpensive and provides authors with several benefits, copyright registration is worth considering, especially if the content is likely to be infringed. The group registration application for short online literary works became available in August 2020. The fillable form to submit with the application can be found on the U.S. Copyright Office website. For more information, or assistance in completing an application, please contact Howard Zaharoff.

The author would like to acknowledge the contributions to this blog post by, and give thanks to, Kristen Manning, Northeastern University School of Law (NUSL) 2021.