By Shane Wax
The United States Copyright Office implemented a new rule last month permitting group registrations of “short online literary works,” aimed at benefiting authors of online content including online newspapers, poems and posts to blogs or social media websites and platforms.
The new rule is designed “to accommodate daily bloggers and other authors who create and publish a high volume of works,” namely those “created or updated on rapid and continuous basis” that do “not qualify as contributions to periodicals,” to ease the burden on independent or unaffiliated authors like bloggers, who often lack the time and resources to submit individual applications for each of their innumerous online publications made in a short window of time.
The new rule was initially proposed in December 2018, and went through the notice-and-comment period required under Administrative Procedure Act, with the Registrar receiving comments on the proposed rule from groups like the Authors Guild, Association of American Publishers, Copyright Alliance, National Writers Union, and National Press Photographers Association, among others. The Copyright Office published the revised, Final Rule this past June, and it took effect on August 17.
Under the new rule, authors of certain literary works published online can file a “GRTX” application in lieu of a standard application to register up to 50 online literary works upon payment of the standard $65 filing fee and that the authors and works meet certain requirements, which are outlined in Circular 67 and below.
First, the claimant(s) must be the author(s) of all the works included in the GRTX application, which cannot be used where ownership is claimed by way of assignment, work-for-hire, or other transfer of rights. If there is more than one author, a GRTX application can only be used for works jointly authored by each of them.
Second, the GRTX application may be utilized only if each underlying work “consist[s] of text that contains at least 50 words and no more than 17,500 words” that “must be published as part of a website or online platform.” This includes “a poem, short story, article, essay, column, blog entry, or social media post” published in “online newspapers, social media websites, and social networking platforms,” but does not include “computer programs, audiobooks, podcasts, or emails,” nor any other visual elements (such as graphics, look-and-feel or selection/coordination/arrangement claims)
A single GRTX application may contain up to 50 qualifying short online literary works provided that all the works are “published within a three-calendar-month period. The GRTX application must also (1) specify the total number of works included in the application, (2) identify the earliest and latest date that the works were published, (3) identify the date of publication and word count for each work, (4) provide titles for each underlying work, as well as a title for the overall group of works, and (5) include “one complete copy of each work . . . assembled in an orderly form with each work in a separate digital file.”
Overall, from a practitioner standpoint, the GRTX Application process is not significantly onerous nor too different from other group copyright applications. For content creators ranging from journalists to bloggers to influencer, however, this new application opens up new avenues to protecting broad segments of original content.
 Final Rule, Group Registration of Short Online Literary Works, 85 Fed. Reg. 37341-47 (June 22, 2020), codified at 37 C.F.R. §§ 201, 202 (Aug. 17, 2020), available at https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2020-06-22/pdf/2020-12041.pdf.