U.S. Copyright Registry Called a Scam

Update: The U.S. Copyright Registry appears to be closed at this time. All links to the site have been removed.

A reader tipped me off to an email that is circulating from a company known as the U.S. Copyright Registry.

The email, which is sent to the administrative contact of a domain, says that:

“You are required to advise the US Copyright Registry of your intent to license this website if registration is administered through the UCR as this is your final notice.”

If you receive this email, please disregard it. Despite the official-sounding name, the U.S. Copyright Registry (UCR) is not the United States Copyright Office (USCO). Though much of the legal information contained within it is at somewhat accurate, the attempts to push you to use the UCR’s service are both unnecessary and costly.

What They Do

If you visit the UCR Web site, it is very difficult to figure out what they do. However, it is their “About Us” page where they explain their services:

“The U.S. Copyright Registry handles the entire process of registering copyright for website owners from filing the application and paying all necessary filing fees as well as depositing and submitting copies of the work to the copyright office. All government forms are reviewed extensively using our automated system for accuracy, completeness and common errors. All registration is administered by the U.S. Copyright Office of the Library of Congress.”

In short, what the service does is register your site with the USCO, handling the forms, deposits and fees. For this service, according to a representative I spoke with on the phone, the UCR charges $350, ten times the filing fee for an electronic copyright registration at the USCO itself.

In function, the service is actually very similar to C-Site by GoDaddy. However, GoDaddy’s “Express Application” service is just $71.99, including the filing fee.

However, virtually any one who can download their site to a CD can register it. While the Electronic Copyright Office system is a tangled mess, filing out a Short Form TX (PDF) is very simple and fast.

There is very little reason to consider using a service such as the UCR, especially at the price it is charging.

The UCR Response

Prior to this article, I called the UCR and spoke with both a front line representative, who gave me the basic overview of the service, and a supervisor named Thomas Young that answered my questions.

According to Young, the main function of the emails is to inform Webmasters of their intellectual property rights and that there is no intention of causing confusion. He repeatedly assured me that the official USCO Web site was at copyright.gov and that the emails were in no way an attempt to cause confusion.

I pointed out that the official USCO site address does not appear anywhere in the email, Young did not immediately respond.

Young did say that they offered the registration service but stressed that the main goal of the service was to notify and educate Webmasters to their rights.

Conclusions

When you pair a strongly-worded email with an official-sounding name and a copyright registration service that does the same function as the USCO, confusion is both inevitable and predictable.

WHile I will leave everyone to their own judgment if this service is truly a “scam”, it is clearly an email you can and should ignore.

If you want assistance with your copyright registration, there are cheaper services available. However, there is no obstacle to doing it yourself and either paying the $45 paper filing fee or the $35 electronic one.

If the service truly is only interested in notifying Webmasters of their rights, I hope that they would be willing to make changes to their language and add all of the information consumers need to make an informed decision about if and how to register their works.

As it is, they are only adding to the confusion over copyright and not helping anyone, but perhaps themselves.

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