Operations Updates During the COVID-19 Pandemic
This page includes information related to the Copyright Office’s operations during the COVID-19 health situation, which we will update with further information. You can also receive email updates by subscribing to our NewsNet service.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Copyright Office is expanding its capabilities to receive electronic submissions for Office services. While many of the Office’s services, including applications for copyright registration submitted through the electronic Copyright Office (“eCO”) system, are already largely digital, for other services the applicable regulations or practices allowed submission of materials by physical delivery only. To assist persons who may be unable to send physical mail during the national emergency, the Office is now permitting submissions by email for certain services, including filing notices of termination for recordation, requests for reconsideration of refusals to register, and requests for removal of personally identifiable information from the public record. To facilitate those efforts, the Office today has published a final rule to facilitate electronic submission for additional Office services as administrative processes are established.
The Office has provided a list of current physical and electronic submission options for various services, including the new options implemented in response to the national emergency, on its website. This page will be updated as electronic options are introduced or modified.
The Copyright Office Public Information Office is available for questions through our website at copyright.gov/help/ or at (202) 707-3000 or 1-877-476-0778 (toll free).
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Library of Congress buildings are closed to the public, and the U.S. Copyright Office has implemented extended telework requirements to reduce the number of onsite staff. To mitigate the effect of this temporary closure on the examination of electronic applications accompanied by physical deposits, the Office is establishing the following interim rules:
For Applications Filed before April 2, 2020
The Office may contact applicants who have filed an electronic application for which a physical deposit copy has been submitted and received by the Office to offer the applicant the option of providing an additional electronic copy of the work so the Office can examine the claim remotely. This process is only available when the registration specialist assigned to the claim contacts the applicant, offers the option, and enables the upload function to allow for an upload to be associated with the application.
If the applicant agrees to use this option, the applicant must submit both an electronic deposit copy and a declaration form, under penalty of perjury, stating that the electronic copy is identical to the physical copy previously submitted. This document may be uploaded in the same manner as the electronic deposit copy. The registration specialist assigned to the claim will send a declaration form to the applicant and will provide the applicant with instructions for uploading the completed declaration and the deposit to the appropriate claim.
If the applicant cannot, or prefers not to, submit an electronic copy of the deposit, the Office will examine the claim once registration specialists resume in-Office examination. Although examination of the claim will be delayed, the effective date of registration will generally be the date that the Office received the application, fee, and physical deposit.
For Applications Filed on or after April 2, 2020
For newly submitted electronic applications for published works that require the submission of “best edition” physical copies of the deposit, the applicant will have the option of uploading an electronic copy of the work in addition to mailing the required physical copies. Applicants who use this option must submit both an electronic deposit copy and a declaration form, under penalty of perjury, stating that the electronic copy is identical to the required physical copies that the applicant will mail to the Office together with the shipping slip generated in eCO. Applicants may use the declaration form provided here. This document may be uploaded in the same manner as the electronic deposit copy. If an applicant decides to use this option, registration specialists will be able to examine the claim remotely once they receive the application, fee, electronic deposit copy, and declaration.
If the applicant cannot, or prefers not to, submit an electronic copy of the deposit, the Office will examine the claim once registration specialists resume in-Office examination. Although examination of the claim will be delayed, the effective date of registration will generally be the date that the Office received the application, fee, and physical deposits.
THIS OPTION IS NOT AVAILABLE TO APPLICANTS SUBMITTING PAPER APPLICATIONS.
For applicants filing electronic applications for which physical copies are not required to be submitted, the Office strongly encourages the submission of electronic deposits.
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Adjustments to Copyright Act Timing Provisions for Persons Affected by COVID-19
On March 27, 2020, the President signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which added section 710 to the Copyright Act. Section 710 authorizes the Register, on a temporary basis and subject to certain exceptions, to “toll, waive, adjust, or modify any timing provision . . . or procedural provision” in the Copyright Act if she determines that a national emergency declared by the President “generally disrupts or suspends the ordinary functioning of the copyright system . . . or any component thereof.” In exercising this authority, the Register “shall consider the scope and severity of the particular national emergency, and its specific effect with respect to the particular provision, and shall tailor any remedy accordingly.”
On March 13, 2020, the President declared that the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States constitutes a national emergency, beginning March 1, 2020. For the reasons explained below, the Acting Register finds that this emergency has generally disrupted the ordinary functioning of the copyright system with respect to the ability of certain persons to comply with statutory or regulatory filing and/or service requirements in a timely manner. Therefore, the Acting Register is exercising her authority under section 710 to adjust the applicable timing provisions in specific cases where compliance would have been possible but for the national emergency. On March 31, 2020, the Copyright Office announced adjustments to timing provisions related to certain registration claims and notices of termination for persons affected by COVID-19. On April 6, 2020, the Copyright Office announced an adjustment to timing provisions related to the paper-based provision of section 115 notices of intention and statements of account by entities impacted by COVID-19.
These emergency modifications will be in effect until May 12, 2020, for sixty days after the Presidential declaration, unless the Acting Register issues an announcement stating that the period of disruption has ended before that time, or alternatively, that a further extension is necessary. The Office is continuing to monitor the effect of the national emergency on these and other components, including with respect to the modifications below, of the copyright system and will consider further adjustments as circumstances warrant.
Registration Timing Requirements for Certain Statutory Remedies
Under section 412 of the Copyright Act, a copyright owner generally is eligible to be awarded statutory damages in an infringement action only if the work is registered prior to the infringement or within three months of the work’s first publication. The effective date of registration is the date when the Copyright Office receives the application, deposit, and fee.
In response to the national emergency, federal, state, and local governments have issued guidelines recommending against discretionary travel, and a number of states and localities have ordered the closure of nonessential businesses. As a result, the Copyright Office has become aware that some copyright owners of published works may be prevented from completing and submitting copyright applications in a timely manner due to lack of access to physical documents, including deposit copies of copyrighted works, or the inability to deliver materials to a mail carrier.
To mitigate the effect of this disruption, the Acting Register is temporarily adjusting the application of the timing provisions of section 412 to affected persons. These adjustments will follow a tiered approach:
- For copyright applications that can be submitted entirely in electronic form (i.e., those that do not require submission of a physical deposit), the timing provisions are unchanged.
If an applicant can submit an application electronically but is unable to submit a required physical deposit, the applicant should upload, together with the application, a declaration or similar statement certifying, under penalty of perjury, that the applicant is unable to submit the physical deposit and would have done so but for the national emergency, and setting forth satisfactory evidence in support. If this requirement is met, and the three-month window for registration after the date of first publication was open as of March 13, 2020, the window will be extended such that the applicant will be eligible for the remedies under section 412, provided that the applicant submits the required deposit within thirty days after the date the disruption has ended, as stated in a public announcement by the Acting Register. Examples of satisfactory evidence include, but are not limited to:
- a statement that the applicant is subject to a stay-at-home order issued by a state or local government; or
- a statement that the applicant is unable to access required physical materials due to closure of the business where they are located.
If an applicant is unable to submit an application electronically or physically during the disruption, the applicant may submit an application after the Acting Register has announced the end of the disruption, and include a declaration or similar statement certifying, under penalty of perjury, that the applicant was unable to submit an application electronically or physically and would have done so but for the national emergency, and providing satisfactory evidence in support. If this requirement is met, the three-month window under section 412 will be tolled between March 13, 2020, and the date that the disruption has ended. For example, if a work was first published on February 13, 2020, the applicant would have two months following the end of the disruption to register the work in order to be eligible for the remedies under section 412. Satisfactory evidence for purposes of this option includes, but is not limited to:
- a statement that the applicant did not have access to a computer and/or the internet; or
- a statement hat the applicant was prevented from accessing or sending required physical materials for reasons such as those noted above.
Where the Acting Register finds satisfactory evidence that the applicant was affected by the national emergency, the Copyright Office will annotate the registration record to reflect that determination.
Timing Requirements for Serving and Recording Notices of Termination
Under sections 203 and 304(c) of the Copyright Act, individual authors may reclaim copyright interests previously transferred to another party in specified circumstances. In general, an author may terminate a transfer within a five-year window, provided the author serves notice on the transferee between two and ten years before the chosen termination date. After service, the notice must be recorded with the Copyright Office.
The COVID-19 response measures affecting copyright registration may have a similar impact on authors’ ability to serve notices of termination and submit them for recordation. These limitations could have legal consequences for some authors given the statutory requirement that a notice of termination be served at least two years before the date of termination. While in many instances an author may be able to choose a termination date that falls more than two years after the disruption has ended, or may have already anticipated and served a notice of termination, for some grants, the end of the five-year termination window may fall in the spring of 2022, necessitating service of notice by the spring of 2020. While many authors will be able to proceed in the normal course, in some instances, authors may be unable to access the underlying agreement or otherwise comply with the requirements due to the national emergency.
Other authors may be limited in their ability to record notices with the Copyright Office in a timely manner. The Copyright Act requires that a termination notice be recorded with the Office before the date of termination. An author who has already served a termination notice with a date of termination falling during the period of national emergency may be unable to submit the notice to the Office. While the Office is establishing an option to allow notices to be submitted electronically, some authors may lack access to a computer or the internet.
To ensure that these authors are not deprived of their ability to effect termination, the Acting Register will temporarily adjust the section 203 and 304(c) timing requirements to the extent they apply to persons affected by the national emergency. These adjustments will apply as follows:
Where the termination window is expiring: the five-year window for terminating a transfer will be extended during the period of disruption if: (1) the author’s five-year termination window expires on or after March 13, 2022, and less than two years after the date the disruption ends; (2) the author serves a notice of termination within thirty days after the date the Acting Register announces as the date the disruption has ended; and (3) the notice of termination is accompanied by a declaration or similar statement certifying, under penalty of perjury, that but for the national emergency, the author would have been able to serve the notice at least two years before the close of the five-year window, and setting forth an explanatory statement in support of that certification. This statement must also be included in the material sent to the Office when the notice is later recorded. The Office will annotate the public record to reflect this certification.
When an author meets these requirements, the notice will be considered timely served under section 203(a)(4)(A) or 304(c)(4)(A). The author still would have to choose a termination date at least two years after the date of service.
Where the window to record is expiring:, the requirement that a notice be recorded before the date of termination will be waived if (1) the author has already served the notice on the transferee; (2) the termination date listed on the notice is on or after March 14, 2020, and on or before the date the Acting Register announces as the date the disruption has ended; (3) the author records the notice within thirty days after the date the disruption has ended; and (4) the recordation submission includes a declaration or similar statement certifying, under penalty of perjury, that the author would have submitted the notice in a timely manner but for the national emergency, and setting forth satisfactory evidence in support of that statement. As is true for registration applications, satisfactory evidence would include, but not be limited to, a statement that the author was prevented from accessing or mailing the required physical materials.
When an author meets these requirements, the notice will be treated as timely recorded for purposes of section 203(a)(4)(A) or 304(c)(4)(A). The Copyright Office will annotate the public record to reflect that determination.
Timing Requirements for Serving Section 115 Notices of Intention and Statements of Account
Under section 115 of the Copyright Act, a compulsory license to make and distribute phonorecords of a musical work is currently available under certain conditions, including service of a notice of intention (NOI) upon the copyright owner and delivering a monthly statement of account (SOA) and royalty payment to that owner. The Orrin G. Hatch—Bob Goodlatte Music Modernization Act (MMA) made significant changes to the section 115 license. This includes distinguishing obligations for serving an NOI depending upon whether or not the use involves a digital phonorecord delivery (e.g., whether the use is related to a physical product such as a vinyl record or CD, or whether it relates to use on a digital music service). But for both types of uses, users must currently: (1) serve NOIs before, or not later than thirty calendar days after, making a phonorecord of the musical work; (2) provide SOAs and related royalty payments on or before the twentieth day of each month, which shall include all royalties for the month next preceding; and (3) also provide an annual SOA.
The Copyright Office has issued regulations related to the format and service of NOIs, SOAs and related royalty payments. By regulation, SOAs and payments may be sent together or separately, but if sent separately, the payments must include information reasonably sufficient to allow the payee to match them to the corresponding statements. Copyright owners may elect to receive NOIs, SOAs, or payments in paper or electronic format (e.g., by email or electronic account, and direct deposit), but the default rule is paper delivery. In practice, the Office understands that a majority of copyright owners have generally elected electronic delivery, but a minority receive NOIs, SOAs and payments by paper, either because they simply have not opted into electronic delivery, or, for a smaller minority, because they have affirmatively expressed a preference for paper.
While the MMA’s most significant change is to establish a new, blanket license for digital music providers (DMPs) to be administered by a mechanical licensing collective (MLC), this blanket license is not yet available. DMPs and other licensees must continue to comply with section 115’s conditions on a song-by-song basis during the current transition period. The emergency relief outlined below is directed at obligations accruing during this transition period and is unrelated to activities of the MLC. This relief is also necessarily limited to obligations related to the statutory section 115 license and is unrelated to obligations that stem from direct licensing agreements between private parties.
The Copyright Office has become aware that, as a result of the COVID-19 national emergency, some entities, including at least one DMP and its licensing administrator, may be prevented from serving NOIs and SOAs in a timely manner due to an inability to physically process paper notices and statements resulting from a shutdown of corporate offices. In the instance that has come to the Office’s attention, the Office also understands that processing of paper checks originates from a different location and remains unaffected.
To mitigate the effect of disruption upon all stakeholders of the section 115 license, including licensees, music publishers, and songwriters, the Acting Register is temporarily adjusting the application of certain timing provisions. Recognizing that the section 115 license reflects a complex balancing of interests most recently addressed by Congress through passage of the MMA and the existing reliance upon the current structure by various stakeholders, the Office is providing a reasonable framework for relief that minimizes disruption to longstanding expectations, including with respect to royalty payments, and promotes transparency in compulsory licensing. These adjustments will apply as follows:
- Notices of Intention: The requirement that a NOI be served will be tolled during the period of disruption if the affected entity (1) has sent an alert to the copyright owner (directly or through respective administrators) that it is unable to serve the NOI by paper and provided clear instructions and contact information for the owner to temporarily opt-into electronic delivery during the period of disruptions in the alert and on a website of the licensee or its licensing administrator; (2) serves the notice within thirty days after the date the disruption has ended, as stated in a public announcement by the Acting Register, along with a clear statement indicating the date or expected date of distribution; and (3) complies with the general conditions outlined below. The alert in subpart (1) of this paragraph may be made by a licensing administrator and will be considered satisfied if the related certifications include a description explaining that an alert was attempted but unsuccessful due to lack of electronic contact information or a lack of ability to deliver an alert stemming from the disruption.
- Statements of Account and Royalty Payments: The requirement that a monthly or annual SOA be served or royalty payment made will be tolled during the period of disruption if the affected entity (1) has sent an alert to the copyright owner (directly or through respective administrators) that it is unable to serve the SOA by paper and provided clear instructions and contact information for the owner to temporarily opt into electronic delivery during the period of disruptions in the alert and on a website of the licensee or its licensing administrator; (2) serves the SOA within thirty days after the date the disruption has ended, along with a clear statement indicating the period (month and year) covered by the applicable statement; (3) complies with the general conditions outlined below; and (4) continues to make timely payment of royalties to payees, whether electronically or by paper check, unless the certification includes a statement and supporting evidence describing the inability to make the required royalty payments. The alert in subpart (1) of this paragraph may be made by a licensing administrator and will be considered satisfied if the related certifications includes a description explaining that an alert was attempted but unsuccessful due to lack of electronic contact information or a lack of ability to deliver an alert stemming from the disruption.
- Certification: An entity making use of this adjustment must include a declaration or similar statement on each applicable NOI or SOA certifying, under penalty of perjury, that the entity would have served the NOI or SOA, or made the royalty payment, within the statutorily prescribed time but for the national emergency, and setting forth satisfactory evidence in support of that statement. Satisfactory evidence would include, but not be limited to, a statement that the licensee and, if applicable, its vendor was prevented from mailing the required physical materials or payment, alerted or attempted to alert the copyright owner of the ability to opt into electronic delivery, and were unable to obtain consent from the copyright owner to receive materials or payment electronically.
- Limitation to Paper-Based Delivery: As of April 6, 2020, this adjustment applies only to NOIs and SOAs sent to persons or entities who had previously received them in paper format prior to the national emergency. An entity with a demonstrated need to extend this adjustment to electronic delivery methods should contact the Copyright Office using the information provided below.
- Contact Information: Entities making use of this adjustment must make contact information and customer service accessible for persons, including copyright owners, who wish to understand how this tolling may affect them, including to opt into a temporary offer of electronic delivery or determine whether their interests are included in the list of affected works and licenses described below. Although the Copyright Office typically does not link to third parties, in light of this emergency relief and the importance of copyright owners obtaining reliable information, the Office is sharing the following contact information: [email protected]; www.harryfox.com/#/hfa-account/register. Affected entities who wish to be added to this list should contact the Office using the information provided below.
- Temporary Offer of Electronic Delivery: Entities making use of this adjustment must promptly provide a method for copyright owners who were receiving paper NOIs or SOAs prior to the national emergency to opt in, on a temporary basis, to electronic delivery and, separately, to direct deposit of payments. Such deliveries and deposits must automatically revert to a paper format within thirty days after the date the disruption ends, unless the copyright owner has agreed to continued electronic delivery.
- List of Affected Works and Licenses: Entities making use of this adjustment must track how they use it and must maintain a record of licenses by copyright owner for which they have made use of the adjusted timing provisions. They must also keep a list of the affected musical works. Over time, the Office expects the list of licenses with respect to the number of copyright owners to remain the same, or decrease, as copyright owners opt-into electronic delivery, while the list of affected works may increase as new sound recordings continue to be released.
- Licensee-Vendor Royalty Delivery: As applicable, an affected DMP or other user must continue to deliver royalty payments to its chosen administrator, so that the administrator may promptly make royalty payments when and where possible.
- Due Diligence: Except for the adjustments provided under this emergency authority, the due diligence requirements of section 115(d)(10) remain unaltered.
Individuals Experiencing Additional Issues Should Contact the Copyright Office
If necessary, the Office will consider additional appropriate modifications as it becomes aware of sufficient disruption to the copyright system caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Members of the public who have been affected in their ability to participate in the copyright system are encouraged to contact the Copyright Office through our website at copyright.gov/help/ or by phone at (202) 707-3000. Further information about Office operations during the COVID-19 pandemic is available at copyright.gov/coronavirus/. Please note that, for any new email options, applicants must refer to specific instructions provided on that page.
Out of an abundance of caution, all Library of Congress buildings, which includes the U.S. Copyright Office, will be closed to the public until Wednesday, April 1, 2020, at 8:30 a.m. to reduce the risk of transmitting COVID-19 coronavirus. If you are a user of U.S. Copyright Office services, submit your applications online, browse FAQs, and submit emails with questions through copyright.gov. You may also reach the Copyright Office by phone at (202) 707-3000.
For more information, visit: https://www.loc.gov/about/pandemic-information/for-public/
The U.S. Copyright Office continues to be open through our website copyright.gov for online registration, searching copyright-related records, and learning about copyright topics. We are also receiving registration applications and recorded documents sent by mail.
Members of the public may submit emails with questions through our website and reach us by phone at (202) 707-3000, while our office facilities are closed to the public to reduce the risk of transmitting the COVID-19 coronavirus. Additionally, we are unable to accept deliveries by personal courier at this time, though we are currently accepting deliveries via U.S. Postal mail and commercial delivery services such as UPS, FedEx, and DHS.
Staff of the Records Research and Certification Section continue to offer search, records certification, and other services but there will likely be unavoidable delays in processing times.
March 18, 2020
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Library of Congress building and facilities are closed to the public. In addition, the Copyright Office has implemented extended telework requirements, which will limit the number of onsite staff. Assistance by phone and email are still available. Click here for more information.
Teleworking staff will continue to examine electronic copyright applications and digital deposits that are uploaded to the electronic registration system ("eCO"). But we will not be able to examine physical deposits or paper applications at this time.
To minimize the impact on copyright owners who need to register their works on an expedited basis, the Copyright Office has modified its special handling policy:
- Special handling for electronic applications with digital deposits. Special handling claims will be examined within five working days if the applicant submits an electronic application, pays the filing fee and the additional fee for special handling, and uploads a digital deposit to the eCO system.
- Special handling for electronic applications with physical deposits. Applicants who are required to submit a physical deposit should submit an electronic application, pay the filing and the additional fee for special handling, print a shipping slip and attach it to the physical deposit, and mail the physical deposit and shipping slip to the Copyright Office.
Special handling claims with a physical deposit will be examined within five business days if the applicant also uploads a digital copy of that same work through the eCO system. The electronic upload must be accompanied by a declaration or similar statement certifying under penalty of perjury, that the content of the digital deposit is identical to the physical deposit that has been sent to the Copyright Office.
Note: If the applicant mails a physical copy to the Copyright Office - but does not upload a digital copy to the eCO system - the claim will not be examined until teleworking staff are permitted to return to the Library of Congress's building.
These measures are exceptional in nature and temporary in duration and are projected to terminate when the Library reopens its buildings to the public.
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U.S. Copyright Office staff are currently working remotely in an effort to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 respiratory virus. Ordinarily, when the Office refuses to register an application for copyright registration, the refusal letter will be sent to the applicant through U.S. Mail. Because many staff members are not in the Office, examiners cannot send hard-copy letters at this time.
To ensure that applicants receive a timely registration decision, the Office has decided to send refusal letters via email, instead of sending a physical copy through the mail.
When a claim is refused, the refusal letter will be sent to the email address provided in the registration application. The letter will be attached to the email as a PDF attachment. The attached PDF constitutes “written” notice of the Office’s registration decision per 37 C.F.R. § 202.5(b)(4) and 17 U.S.C. § 410(b).
Decision letters for requests for reconsideration to be sent by email
The Office will follow a similar approach when responding to a first or second request for reconsideration: the response will be sent to the email address provided in the reconsideration request. Responses to first requests for reconsideration will include instructions on how to submit a second request for reconsideration. Responses to second requests for consideration via email will constitute final agency action per 37 C.F.R. § 202.5(g).
Questions about these processes should be directed to the Public Information Office at: 1 (877) 476–0778.
Please also note that U.S. Copyright Office fees for many services, including the fee to request reconsideration of a refused registration, increased as of March 20, 2020. Applicants are encouraged to review the new fees before preparing any future submissions or requests. Information about the new fees is available here: https://www.copyright.gov/about/fees.html.
Questions about these processes should be directed to the Public Information Office at: 1 (877) 476–0778.
For more information about how COVID-19 affects Copyright Office operations, please visit copyright.gov/coronavirus/