Saturday, May 24, 2008

Register Your Copyright Online

The U.S. Copyright Office has begun beta testing of an online copyright registration system that will enable people to file what they're calling "basic registration claims" for literary works, visual arts works, performing arts works, sound recordings, and single serials. I've always thought that the Copyright Office should try harder to keep up with the USPTO, both in terms of their web presence and in the amount of acronyms they employ.

They're doing both with their "electronic Copyright Office" or eCO. Like the USPTO's TEAS (Trademark Electronic Application System) and EFS-Web (Electronic Filing System, uh, Web) , the Copyright Office's eCO will allow some users to forgo mailing documents by submitting works to be registered entirely online; others will be able to file the forms and pay fees online, but will have to send in a hard copy of the work to be registered.

Copyright registration is similar to patent registration in that both parties (the registrant and the general public, represented by the Government) benefit from the registration. When a person registers a patent, the general public benefits from the disclosure of a new invention; the registrant benefits by retaining the exclusive right to bring that invention to market.

Copyright registration offers concrete and public proof of ownership, and though registration is not required for a work to be protected, owners of registered copyrights have an easier time bringing suit against infringers. In exchange for this, they pay a small fee and deposit a copy of their work with the Library of Congress.

This is all my long-winded way of explaining why it will probably be a long time before all copyright registrations will be done entirely online. The Library of Congress holds over 138 million items in its collection; copyright deposits represent a massive amount of this collection.

That said, it's nice to see that the Copyright Office is taking steps to streamline the process, especially for items that are born digital. There's also a discount for people who file electronically. Check it out here.


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Digital Signature for Trademark e-Filing