Copyright Office Announces Potential New Option for Registration of News Sites
- The proposed rule would allow a publisher to register its news website as a collective work, with that registration also including any components of the site that the publisher also fully owns.
- News organizations would be permitted to register digital content on a monthly basis using streamlined deposit copy procedures, helping to resolve an issue that has long frustrated online publishers.
The Bottom Line
The U.S. Copyright Office is seeking public comment on its proposal to create a group registration option for “frequently updated news websites.” The proposed rule would allow news organizations to register digital content on a monthly basis using streamlined deposit copy procedures and thereby help to resolve an issue that has long frustrated online publishers.
Many publishers find timely registration—and the advantages it provides for enforcement of copyrights against infringers, such as the availability of statutory damages and attorneys’ fees—an important part of managing their intellectual property. For decades, though, it has been a challenge to register online news content in a cost-effective and efficient manner.
The proposed rule would allow a publisher to register its news website as a collective work, with that registration also including any components of the site that the publisher also fully owns. Each month, the organization would file a single registration that would include all daily updates published over the course of that month. Instead of filing a deposit copy that includes a complete copy of an entire dynamic site, the registrant would be require to include pdfs showing an example of how the home page appeared on each day it was updated. The deposit copies would not be required to show every update to the site over the month, including any content that did not appear on the home page at the point the representative example of the home page was created and any content that did not appear at the home page at all. In other words, for the month of January, a news organization with daily updates would include 31 pdfs of the home page as the deposit copy.
This approach has several advantages over the current limited options for registering online content. While the Copyright Office accepts group registrations for serials or newspapers, for example, whether they are in print or online, both of these registration options are pre-Internet mechanisms. These group registrations require that each issue be fixed and distributed as a discrete, self-contained collective work, which would not apply to continuously updated news sites. Similarly, while an owner can copyright an entire website as a collective work published on a particular date, that is often not feasible given both the challenges of providing the Copyright Office with a deposit copy containing an entire site and the need to file repeated new registrations as the site changes.
One potential downside to a new registration option created for a dynamic website, such a news feed that is continuously updated, is that it may be somewhat more difficult for a copyright owner to prove that an individual article or other work is included in the registration if it is not shown in the deposit copy. The Copyright Office suggests that a publisher “will need to preserve and maintain its own copy of the site and rely on its own recordkeeping to provide such proof.” Among the topics about which the Office is seeking comment is “the availability and effectiveness of technological solutions for saving or archiving websites that could assist or supplement news websites’ recordkeeping efforts while also informing the public of the contents of the website and/or any updates registered.”
The Office has also specifically requested comments “regarding whether it should give applicants the opportunity to provide additional information, such as individual article or photograph titles, as part of the group registration option” and “the impact on publishers if they were permitted to provide granular information concerning the individual articles, photographs, and other component works for each group of news websites.”
Comments must be in writing and received by the Copyright Office by February 20, 2024. They should be submitted through the regulations.gov system. Instructions for submitting comments are available here. Please let us know if you are interested in filing a comment or would like to discuss the proposal.
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