28 March 2005

I'm still coming up for air after a major deadline push, so this will be short. Sharp. To the point—if possibly pointless.

The Copyright Office has provided notice in the Federal Register of impending changes to group registration of published photographs. See 70 Fed. Reg. 15587 (28 Mar 05). The change, which appears on its face to concern only a minor technicality that doesn't apply to very many people, may—and hopefully does—presage a change in Copyright Office procedures for all types of group registrations.

Group registrations allow, for administrative convenience, the grouping of shorter and smaller materials into a single registration application, with a single registration fee. This is how short fiction published in magazines; websites; articles, etc. should be registered. (It's how I do my registrations of such materials; which reminds me that it's about time for another one.) That way, instead of spending $30 per item, the author spends only $30 for the set, and the Copyright Office only has to handle one set of paperwork. Under a system adopted in 2001, each application for photographs could contain an unlimited number of photographs, which was adopted in preference to a limit of 500 per application that received adverse comments from some photographers. The Copyright Office now proposes to limit each application to 750 photographs.

I don't work with enough serious photographers to have a specific opinion on how this will/might impact photographers. What I think is important is that the Copyright Office is paying more attention to the practicality of both processing the applications and of searching them to discern the copyright holder. In turn, this effects the orphan copyright issue. And in turn, this would require a lot more detail in this blawg posting than I have energy to provide. Ultimately, though, easing and regularizing group registrations can only help reduce the number of orphan works, because it will provide another anchor point for tracing down the copyright holder.