Photographers in the USA wishing to register groups of images for copyright protection will find the process much simpler and easier starting on February 20th.

According to the US Copyright Office, ‘modernized’ practices will let people register either published or unpublished work via a new on-line application system (no more paper applications...) that will allow you to submit up to 750 images at a time. The new rules also re-define the word ‘Author’ to include individual photographers OR groups of photographers employed by the same person or organization.

The filing process will require those submitting images to title the group and each image, and to create an Excel or PDF list of each image within the group. The group of images can’t occupy more than 500MB, but compression can be used to reduce file sizes, and the registration fee for each group will be $55.

Unpublished and published images can’t be registered together, and all published works in an application have to have been published within the same year (but not necessarily in the same country).

A key point about the process, according to a detailed explanation by artists’ attorney Leslie Burns, is that under the scheme, each image within the group will be registered individually, so damages will be paid in full for any single image use. Infringers won’t be able to claim that using one image from a group attracts only a fraction of a claim against the registration.

The new rules go into effect February 20th, and can be read in full on the Government Publishing Office website (PDF). Or, for a more easily digestible take on what's changing, visit the Copyright Alliance website.

Copyright Office Summary

U.S. Copyright Office
37 CFR Parts 201, 202
[Docket No. 2016–10]

Group Registration of Photographs

AGENCY: U.S. Copyright Office, Library of Congress.

ACTION: Final rule.

SUMMARY: The U.S. Copyright Office is modernizing its practices to increase the efficiency of the group registration option for photographs. This final rule modifies the procedure for registering groups of published photographs (GRPPH), and establishes a similar procedure for registering groups of unpublished photographs (GRUPH).

Applicants will be required to use a new online application specifically designed for each option, instead of using a paper application, and will be allowed to include up to 750 photographs in each claim.

The ‘‘unpublished collection’’ option (which allows an unlimited number of photographs to be registered with one application), and the ‘‘pilot program’’ (which allows an unlimited number of published photographs to be registered with the application designed for one work) will be eliminated. The corresponding ‘‘pilot program’’ for photographic databases will remain in effect for the time being.

The final rule modernizes the deposit requirements by requiring applicants to submit their photographs in a digital format when using GRPPH, GRUPH, or the pilot program for photographic databases, along with a separate document containing a list of the titles and file names for each photograph. The final rule revises the eligibility requirements for GRPPH and GRUPH by providing that all the photographs must be created by the same ‘‘author’’ (a term that includes an employer or other person for whom a work is made for hire), and clarifying that they do not need to be created by the same photographer or published within the same country. It also confirms that a group registration issued under GRPHH or GRUPH covers each photograph in the group, each photograph is registered as a separate work, and the group as a whole is not considered a compilation or a collective work.

DATES: Effective February 20, 2018.