27 New Copyright Regulations
October 2, 1996
New regulations for copyright registration have been proposed with the aim of
making it much easier for photographers to register their images with the
According to Amy L. Abrames, a copyright lawyer with Hudson & Associates in
"To ease this burden, the Copyright Office has proposed new regulations
permitting group registration without the deposit requirement. The works must
'be by a single photographer, be owned by the same copyright claimant (who need
not be the author), be created on or after March 1, 1989, be created during a
single calendar year, and bear a title which identifies the group as a whole.'
The fee for each group is $40. If published works are included in the group for
which the exact date of publication is known, these works may be included as
long as the publication dates do not exceed a three month period. 'For example,
in one collection a photographer may include both unpublished photographs
created in 1995, and photographs that are known to have been published between
March 1, 1995 and May 31, 1995.' Furthermore, the approximate number of
photographs must be listed, with the approximate number of published works with
specific dates separately specified.
"Within six months of registration, the Copyright Office may select five to ten
photographs for actual deposit. The registrant will be notified of the office's
selections, and must submit copies of these photographs to the Library of
Congress. 'Generally, the Library is interested in photographs covering
newsworthy events by specific photographers, and it does not anticipate making a
large number of requests for samples or archival quality prints."' However, to
make this selection, the office may request fifty to one hundred pictures in the
cheapest format available.
Photographers should recognize that it is currently possible to bulk register a
group of images for a $20 fee. You can copy several images on one transparency
as long as the images are readable when the transparency is projected. You can
put six months, or a year's worth of shooting into one $20 registration. We
have registered a group of digitally created images by sending B&W laser copies
of the color images to the copyright office. We have registered all images on a
CD-ROM disc by delivering one copy of the disc to the Copyright Office.
Thus, there are already some fairly inexpensive ways to register images. The
principle advantage of the proposed system is that it may reduce or even
eliminate the need to file samples of the work.
A problem could arises if and when the Copyright Office asks for its initial
selection of images from which to choose the 5 or 6 that will actually be
"submitted." This request is likely to come a few months after the application
has been made.The photographer will then have to go back to the group of images
and pull a selection for photocopying, or possible Photo CD scanning. It he has
sent these images to his agency the logistics may be extremely difficult.
Complying with any future request for an image would certainly be much easier
for those who have digitally created images, or who are digitizing all images in
their file. In these cases a simple output could be made from the digital
Also, the Copyright Office would have the option of not requesting any actual
images. How often this would actually be the case is unclear.
It is also unclear what the Copyright Office would eventually need to make a
registration accurate if litigation were to develop. Would a text description
that explains that a photographer was shooting certain subjects at a particular
location on a specified day be enough? Or will it be necessary to prove that
the photographer shot the actual frame?
With many studio situations this wouldn't be a problem, but consider the news
environment where there are several photographers shooting shoulder to shoulder.
It might be easy for one photographer to claim another's work if
is not required to be of the actual frame. I suppose that once a case goes to
trial the real owner could be required to produce the original negative or
transparency. But if that is going to be a condition of settlement why is
registration necessary in the first place?
It is my understanding that if the new methods of registration are offered, the
existing system will still be an option.
The proposed regulations were issued on June 26, 1966 and at this point the
comment period has passed. The Copyright Office is now reviewing comments and
suggestions before they issue interim or final regulations.
Again, I want to thank Amy L. Abrames of Hudson & Associates in Atlanta for
alerting me to this developing situation. Photographers needing advice on
copyright related problems in Georgia or Florida may wish to call her at