The US Copyright Office has just announced new rules regarding the group registration of photographs. One of the biggest changes is the fact that only 750 unpublished photos can be registered at a time with each claim, when previously there was no limit. For photographers who regularly register extremely large batches of unpublished photos, copyright registration will soon be much more expensive.
The new final rule, titled “Group Registration of Photographs,” will be effective starting February 20, 2018, and it introduces a number of changes to the process of registering batches of photos at a time.
Washington, DC.-based photographer John Harrington of Photo Business & News Forum writes that the new rules “are bad news for photographers, with very little good news.”
For nearly a decade now, photographers have been able to use the Copyright Office’s online Electronic Copyright Office (eCO) to regularly register huge numbers of photos at a time in a single registration and its $55 fee. Here’s a 42-minute video by Harrington that walks through the registration process:
“In less than a month, the limit is going to be 750 images, TOTAL, on a single registration,” Harrington writes. “This means that a group registration of 5,500 images that I could previously register for $55 using the online eCO, will now cost me $520, or almost a ten-fold increase.
“It is disturbing that there is little extra cost (that is, a few additional sheets of certificate paper) for a 5,500 image registration than for a 750 image registration, so it makes no sense as to why this change has occurred.”
A 750 photo limit existed before, but the quota only applied to published photos. By applying the same limit to unpublished works, the US Copyright Office is making the process more costly for prolific photographers who capture thousands and thousands of photos per month. Published and unpublished photos will also need to be registered separately.
There are a couple of positive changes for photographers in the new rules, though, Harrington notes. The first is that individual photos registered as part of a group are covered individually, so someone who infringes on X number of photos registered in a group would be on the hook for a maximum statutory award of $150,000 times X.
Another improvement is that a single registration can now cover photos from multiple photographers as long as the legal author of the photos is one person (e.g. when second shooters create images on a work-made-for-hire basis — previously each photographer would need a separate registration.
You can read all of the new rules for yourself here: