Home > Insights > Blogs > In Focus > Copyright Office issues new restrictions on group registration of photos

Copyright Office issues new restrictions on group registration of photos

Justin Mulligan February 21, 2018

Group registrations of photos will have new limitations beginning February 20, 2018. Photographers were previously able to register an unlimited number of photographs in a single registration application, for the regular $55 fee. The new rule limits registrations to 750 photographs, requires use of new electronic application forms, and streamlines registration by work-for-hire applicants.

The Copyright Alliance and the Coalition of Visual Artists opposed the limitation to 750 photos per application, but the Copyright Office has refused to change the new rule. The Copyright Office gave several reasons for the 750 photo limit. It claimed that when too many photos are included in one application, insufficient information can be captured about the individual works. Additionally, such large applications strain the office’s computer system.

Also, the Copyright Office found that three-quarters or more of applicants register fewer than 750 photographs per application. The office also noted that at the $55 cost of a single registration, even with the new limitation, photographers can register their copyrights for only seven cents a photo, if the application includes the maximum number.

The revised rule requires the applicant to use either the GRPPH electronic form (for groups of published photographs) or the GRUPH electronic form (for groups of unpublished photographs), both of which should soon be available from the Copyright Office’s forms page. Paper applications are no longer allowed. Photos have to be submitted in a digital format, either through the electronic database or by mailing the files on a digital storage device to the Copyright Office. Applicants must also prepare and send a separate document listing titles and file names for each photograph and, in the case of published photos, the month and year of the publication.

The rule change also provides that all photographs registered in the group must be created by the same “author.” Because this includes corporate authors in the case of works for hire, works by different photographers can be registered in a single application if they all have the same corporate “work for hire” author. This change will help professional photography companies who employ multiple photographers on work for hire basis. Once the electronic registration system is updated, work-made-for-hire authors will no longer need to identify their employees in the application.

The Copyright Office plans to offer new resources to help with the transition, including a new circular and an online tutorial on how to use the new application forms. It will also update the sections of the “Compendium of U.S. Copyright Office Practices that discuss the office’s practices and procedures for group registration.

Justin Mulligan is an associate in Thompson Coburn’s Intellectual Property group. He can be reached at (314) 552-6227 or jmulligan@thompsoncoburn.com.