A close up of the word copyright from a dictionaryCo-authored by: Savannah Merceus

On Feb. 13, 2019, the U.S. Copyright Office amended its rule governing group registration of newspapers by eliminating the requirement that claims be submitted within three months after publication of the earliest issue in the group.[1] In its new amendment, the Office noted that several newspaper publishers reported issues with complying with the three-month deadline and found a “legitimate need to make this change effective immediately.”[2]

In 1992, the Copyright Office created a group registration option that allowed publishers to register a month of issues under one application and a single filing fee.[3] Under the group registration, applicants were required to submit a paper application and microfilm deposit copies within three months after publication of the most recent issue. The Office states that the deadline “was intended to benefit the Library of Congress by ensuring that newspaper issues could be added to its collections and made available to its patrons in a timely manner.”[4] However, publishers reported that producing microfilm deposits was cost-prohibitive and delayed timely submission to the Office. In response, the Office in 2018 updated the rule to allow for electronic applications and PDF copies of each issue but retained the three-month filing requirement.[5]

Despite revisions to the application process, publishers again reported difficulty, this time in creating PDF copies and timely filing of the applications. As a result, publishers’ applications were rejected by the Office, leaving publishers with little recourse but to resubmit each issue individually. Fortunately, citing a “legitimate need to make this change effective immediately,”[6] on Feb. 13, 2019, the Office eliminated the three-month requirement.

Beginning Feb. 18, 2019, publishers may submit claims through the electronic registration system regardless of when the issues were published. Additionally, publishers may resubmit claims that were previously refused for failing to comply with the three-month period. The Office still encourages publishers to submit their claims within three months because this may provide certain legal benefits such as the ability to sue for statutory damages and attorneys’ fees. In adopting the amendment, the Office determined that there was good cause for finalizing the amendment without first publishing notice as “rules of agency organization, procedures, or practice” are permitted to proceed accordingly under the Administrative Procedure Act.[7]

[1] See 37 C.F.R. 202.4(e).
[2] Group Registration of Newspapers, 84 Fed. Reg. 3,698. (Feb. 13, 2019).
[3] Id.
[4] Id.
[5] Id. at 3,699.
[6] Id. at 3,698.
[7] 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(A).