USCO to Raise Registration Fees

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In a move that has been long predicted, the Library of Congress announced yesterday that it is raising its rates on certain copyright registrations, scheduled to go into effect August 1.

Registrations filed via the USCO’s new form CO, which uses barcode scanning technology, will rise from $45 to $50 and old paper applications, such as form TX, will rise from $45 to $65. Registrations filed through the Copyright Office’s online eCO system will remain at $35.

According to the Copyright Office, this reflects the effort and resources it takes to process each registration. The old paper forms, which are still favored by many who file registrations, are the most labor-intensive while the new form CO is less so and the online system is the least. The Copyright Office hopes that this will steer more people to using the electronic system, despite its understood bugs and issues, as it will speed up the process of sending out certificates and, hopefully, help the USCO work through its mammoth backlog.

The biggest surprise in the price increases is that the original Wall Street Journal article (linked above) indicated that the increase would be for all paper applications. The fact that form CO was only increased $5 is an interesting development, but not entirely shocking considering that it uses a dynamic barcode system (one where the barcorde is dynamically created as the user fills in the PDF) to make copyright registrations much more simple.

What it Means

For most, this means extremely little. Very few take the time to register their works as very few people have much practical reason to consider filing a suit. However, if you are thinking of filing a registration and wish to use the paper forms, you should probably do so before August 1. That being said, you should probably expect to wait until at least December 2010 for your certificate.

If you’re planning on using the eCO system, you have no need to pay attention to this. The fees for electronic registrations remain unchanged and it is more likely that the USCO will reduce those fees in the future to further encourage such filings.

But the big question is whether or not this will work. The USCO has said they are hoping that this “inspires another 30 to 40 percent of filers to use eCO” but that seems, at best, unlikely.

Considering the extreme delays in filing copyright registrations and already-higher costs, it seems unlikely that simply raising the price another $20 will sway too many people from using the copyright forms they are most familiar with. Furthermore, filing via a short form TX is significantly faster than going through the eCO system, meaning that any raise in the filling fees will be significantly less than the savings in attorney or consultant fees.

In short, if you aren’t self-filing, the eCO system is still by far the worst deal.

Because of this, while I expect that these new fees will motivate some people to switch to the electronic system, I don’t think it will be anywhere near the 30-40 percent that they are hoping. The only way that one can hope to reduce the fees that much is to eliminate paper filing (save perhaps via Form CO) or require that all paper registrations come with the ultra-high “Special Handling” fee, which is currently $685 but is moving up to $750 in August.

Bottom Line

The end result of this change will probably be more of the same for most filers. If you’re already using the eCO system, you probably won’t change. If you’re using the Form CO, I doubt the $5 increase will motivate you away. If you’re using the traditional forms, you definitely have more to think about, but I don’t think that this, in most cases, will sway filers.

In the end, the biggest difference most people will notice is the amount they write on their checks.

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