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U.S. Copyright Office to Allow for Group Registrations of Short Online Literary Works

By Shanti Sadtler Conway

In August, the US Copyright Office (USCO) will allow group registrations of short online literary works, including social media posts and blog entries. The new scheme, GRTX, will allow applicants to register up to 50 online literary works, as short as 50 words each, under a single application and fee.

The USCO has slowly transitioned to allowing group registrations in the past decade. In 2016, the USCO allowed group registrations for works published in periodicals, known as GRCP. This narrow category allowed for group registrations of "a collective work published on an established schedule in successive issues." Websites were excluded from this, primarily because they are continually updated and do not represent discrete, self-contained issues. Several writers' organizations petitioned for an amendment to this scheme, because under the GRCP they would need to complete a separate application every time they posted a new work or the website was updated. Ultimately, they were successful and the GRTX was created. The GRTX imposes eight eligibility requirements that are strictly applied:

1. The GRTX group may include up to 50 separate literary works, each containing at least 50 but no more than 17,500 words. These works must be text, and may not include computer programs, audiobooks, podcasts, or emails.

2. All the works in the group must be published within a three month period.

3. All works must be written by the same author or jointly by the same authors.

4. The works cannot be made for hire. This is designed to benefit individual authors.

5. The applicant must provide a title for each work and a title for the group as a whole.

6. The requisite GRTX application must be submitted.

7. One complete copy of each work must be submitted.

8. The applicant must submit a numbered list containing a file name for each work in the group, including the publication date and word count for each work. Although registration is not required for a copyright to arise, the US is unusual among Berne Convention Countries in that it still operates a widely used public copyright directory. The GRTX will further encourage broad participation in the registration system. Moreover, while the new GRTX rule may benefit an author, it is unclear to what extent such claims will be ultimately pursued.

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