Widely anticipated changes in Copyright Office fees take effect on May 1, 2014. Fees for most Copyright Office services, including the filing and processing of applications, the certification and recordation of documents, and the amendment of existing registrations will rise. A modest number of fees will remain unchanged. The Copyright Office will hold the line on the fee charged to process online applications filed by individuals claiming copyright in individual works so long as they are not works made for hire. The changes, announced in the Federal Register on March 24, 2014, are the first since 2009. They are intended to cover a greater proportion of Copyright Office costs for providing services to the public.

The fee for submitting an online (or eCO) application will rise on May 1 from $35 to $55. Prior to the 2007 introduction of the eCO application, the Copyright Office was charging patrons $45 to process a paper application. To encourage adoption of the eCO system, the Copyright Office dropped the fee for electronic applications to $35 and increased the fee for paper applications to $65. Today, according to the Copyright Office announcement, 91 percent of all applications are filed using eCO. The Copyright Office recommends that patrons view the coming increase to $55 in a historical perspective, not as an increase of $20 per application, but as an increase of just $10 over the fee that was “temporarily” discounted in 2007. The cost of a paper application will rise on May 1 to $85. Electronic applications are typically processed in two to five months; paper applications, in five to eleven months.

Online applications may be used to register claims of copyright in a multitude of media: literary works, software, musical works, visual art, including technical drawings, architectural works, automated databases and other collective works, among others. Works created independently, works made for hire, works subject to assignments of copyright from, say, independent contractors to commissioning parties may all be registered via eCO applications for a $55 fee plus the deposit of one or more specimens of the work.

For further explanation of the changes and a complete list of the soon-to-be-effective fees, see http://www.copyright.gov/fedreg/2014/79fr15910.pdf.

Because registration is a precondition for enforcement of copyright in most federal district courts (in some the mere filing of an application is recognized as an acceptable substitute), it is important for owners of copyrights to think strategically when preparing and submitting applications.  In most instances, the deposited specimens define the scope of the protected work, yet quandaries arise for applicants who prefer to screen out materials they regard as secret. For these and a host of other strategic considerations, potential applicants are urged to confer with copyright counsel.