Help: Serial Issues
A group of serial issues may be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office with one application and one filing fee, if the following conditions have been met:
- Each issue must be a “serial” (defined below).
- The group must include at least two issues.
- Each issue must be an all-new collective work (defined below) that has not been published before.
- Each issue must be fixed and distributed as a discrete, self-contained collective work (described below), and the claim in each issue must be limited to the collective work.
- Each issue must be a work made for hire (defined below).
- The author and claimant for each issue must be the same person or organization
- All the issues must be published under the same continuing title.
- The serial generally must be published at intervals of a week or longer.
- Each issue must be published within three calendar months and within the same calendar year.
- The applicant must identify the date of publication for each issue in the group.
Issues that do not satisfy these requirements cannot be registered using this group registration option.
All the Works Must Be Serial Issues
You may use this option to register a group of serial issues. This option cannot be used to register any other type of work.
A serial is a work that is published in successive issues bearing numerical or chronological designations (such as Volume 2, Issue Number 3; Volume 2, Issue Number 4, etc.). The issues are published under the same continuing title and they are intended to be continued indefinitely. Typically, the publisher has obtained a unique International Standard Serial Number (“ISSN”) such as "1234-5678", which is used to identify the serial title.
Each Issue Must Be an All New Collective Work
Serials are considered collective works, because they contain a number of contributions constituting separate and independent works in themselves that are assembled into a collective whole. A serial issue typically contains two different types of authorship:
- The compilation authorship involved in creating the issue as a whole, including the selection, coordination, and/or arrangement of the separate contributions, as well as editing or other revisions.
- The authorship in the separate and independent contributions that have been included within the issue, such as articles, photographs, or illustrations.
A registration for a group of serial issues covers each issue in the group and each issue is registered as a separate collective work. The registration also may cover the articles, photographs, illustrations, or other contributions that appear in each issue, if the claimant fully owns the copyright in both the issue and the contributions on the date the claim is filed, and if those contributions have not been previously published or registered and are not in the public domain.
A serial issue may qualify as an “all new” collective work if it contains a sufficient amount of compilation authorship. In other words, there must be new expression in the selection, coordination, and/or arrangement of the articles, photographs, or other content appearing in each issue. The fact that the content itself is entirely new is irrelevant to this determination. For example, an issue could be considered “all new” if it contains a brand new selection, coordination, and arrangement of content, even if that content has been previously published in the serial, such as advertisements appearing in previous issues.
The Serial Must Be Fixed and Distributed as a Discrete, Self-contained Collective Work
A serial may satisfy this requirement if the issue as a whole is fixed in a tangible medium of expression, and if the content of each issue does not change once it has been distributed. For instance, a publisher that hand-delivers each issue to its subscribers, or distributes them through newsstands, vending machines, or other retail outlets would satisfy this requirement, because the serial is clearly fixed and distributed in a physical format.
A publisher that emails an electronically printed (“ePrint”) serial to its subscribers may satisfy this requirement if each issue contains a fixed selection of content, such as a PDF version of a physical publication. Similarly, a publisher that allows its subscribers to download an ePrint issue from its website may satisfy this requirement if each issue is distributed as a collective work and the content of each issue does not change once it has been downloaded.
By contrast, websites are not eligible for this group registration option, because they typically add, archive, and/or replace content on a continuing basis, and as such, are not fixed and distributed as discrete, self-contained works.
All the Issues Must Be Published within Three Calendar Months
All the issues in the group must be published. And as discussed above, the issues must be published within three calendar months and within the same calendar year.
This group registration option may be used to register issues that were published on a weekly, monthly, or bi-monthly basis. It may not be used to register issues that were published on a quarterly, semi-annual, or annual basis, or issues that were published in different years.
Title of Serial
On the title screen, give the title of the serial exactly as it appears on each issue. As mentioned above, the title of each issue must be the same.
Do not include titles for the individual articles or other contributions appearing in the serial.
As discussed below, you are strongly encouraged to upload a digital copy of each issue. If an International Standard Serial Number (“ISSN”) has been assigned to the serial, that number should be included in the file name for each issue.
You also may provide the ISSN in the application itself (in addition to including it in the file names for each issue). If you do so, the ISSN will appear on the certificate of registration and in the online public record for the claim.
To provide an ISSN in the application, select “ISSN” from the drop down marked “ISN Type” and enter the eight-digit ISSN in the field marked “International Standard Number”.
If you do not have an ISSN, you may request a number from the U.S. ISSN Center, as discussed below.
Nation of Publication
On the Title screen, you should identify the nation where the issues were published for the first time. To do so, select the name of the appropriate country from the drop down menu. If you are not sure where the issues were published you may select “not known” from the menu.
Volume, Number, Issue Date
As discussed above, the issues must be published within a three month period.
The dates that appear each issue should be entered on the Title screen in the space marked “Issue Date”.
If a volume number, or other numerical designation appears on each issue, you may provide that information on the Title screen in the spaces marked “Volume,”, and “Number”.
Date of Publication for Each Issue in the Group
As discussed above, you must provide the date of publication (month, day, and year) for each issue in the group. This information should be entered in the space provided on the Title screen.
"Publication" occurs when copies of a serial are distributed to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending. Offering to distribute copies to a group of persons for purposes of further distribution, public performance, or public display constitutes publication. A public performance or public display of a work does not, in and of itself, constitute publication.
The author and claimant for each issue must be the same person or organization, and each issue must be a work made for hire.
What is a Work Made for Hire?
A work made for hire is either
- a work created by an employee within the scope of his or her employment.
- a work that is specially ordered or commissioned, provided that the parties expressly agree in a writing signed by both parties that the work is considered a “work made for hire,” and the work is specially ordered or commissioned for use as:
- a compilation
- a contribution to a collective work
- a translation
- instructional text, which is defined as a “literary, pictorial, or graphic work prepared for publication and with the purpose of use in systematic instructional activities;” or
- a supplementary work, which is defined as “a work prepared for publication as a secondary adjunct to a work by another author for the purpose of introducing, concluding, illustrating, explaining, revising, commenting upon, or assisting in the use of the other work, such as forewords, afterwords, pictorial illustrations, maps, charts, tables, editorial notes, musical arrangements, answer material for tests, bibliographies, appendixes, and indexes.”
For more information on works made for hire, see Works Made for Hire (Circular 30).
Who is the author of a work made for hire?
Normally, the author of a work is the person or persons who actually created that work. But in the case of a work made for hire, the author is the employer of the person(s) who created the work, or the party that ordered or commissioned that work.
Who should be named as the author of the “work made for hire” being registered?
You should name the employer of the person(s) who created the issues or the party that ordered or commissioned those issues. Do not name the person or persons who actually created the issues or any of the articles, photographs, or other contributions appearing in those issues.
If the employer or commissioning party is an organization, provide that entity’s name and address in the “Organization” field.
If the employer or commissioning party is an individual, provide that individual’s full name and address in the “Individual” field.
Collective Work Authorship
As mentioned above, the serial must be a collective work, and the claim in each issue must be limited to the collective work. When you submit this form, the term “collective work” will be added automatically to your application.
A claim in the “collective work” covers the compilation authorship involved in creating each issue as a whole. It also covers the authorship in the individual articles, photographs, illustrations, or other contributions appearing within each issue – if they were first published in those issues and if they are fully owned by the author/claimant when the application is filed.
If the copyright in the individual contributions and each issue as a whole are owned by different parties, or if the contributions have been previously published, you must complete and submit a separate application to register each contribution.
To register a group of serial issues, you must submit a complete copy of each issue.
Specifically, you must submit the copies in a digital form and upload them to the electronic registration system. To do so, follow the steps described below.
Important: Beginning December 31, 2019, the Copyright Office will no longer accept physical copies. If you submit a physical copy on or after that date, the Office will refuse to register your claim.
Uploading Digital Files to the Electronic Registration System
To register a group of serial issues, you must upload a digital copy of each issue that complies with the following requirements:
- Each issue must be contained in a separate PDF file.
- When creating the PDF files you must use the file-naming conventions described below.
- The files must be assembled in an orderly manner, they must be viewable and searchable, they must contain embedded fonts, and they must be free from any access restrictions that prevent the viewing and examination of the issue.
- The files must be uploaded to the electronic registration system as individual files (not in .zip file).
- The file size for each uploaded file must not exceed 500 megabytes; the files may be compressed to comply with this requirement.
These requirements are discussed in more detail below.
File Naming Convention for Digital Files
Each PDF file should be named using the following conventions.
If an ISSN number has not been assigned to the serial, the file name should include the abbreviation “GRSE” (which stands for “group serials”), the title of the serial, and the date of publication for each issue, as follows:
- “GRSE_[title_of_serial]_[date of publication YYYYMMDD].pdf”
For example, the file name for a serial titled Fashion Weekly published on August 1, 2018 would be “GRSE_fashion_weekly _20180801.pdf”.
If an ISSN number has been assigned to the serial, the files should be named using the following convention:
- “GRSE_[ISSN number]_[date of publication YYYYMMDD].pdf”
For example, the file name for an issue published on August 1, 2018 under ISSN 1234-5678 would be “GRSE_12345678_20180801.pdf.
Include underscores between each element of the file name, but leave out the hyphen in the middle of the ISSN number. Be sure to include two digits for both the month and day, such as 01, 02, 03, etc. (not 1, 2, 3, etc.).
If you do not have an ISSN, you may request a number from the U.S. ISSN Center. To do so, complete the ISSN Application Form and make a PDF copy of the front page of one issue (including the masthead or nameplate, if any) and the internal page that contains the editorial bloc, masthead, and publisher information (if any). The completed form and PDF copies of these two pages should be emailed to [email protected].
If you have applied for an ISSN but have not received it yet, you may state “pending” in the file name for each issue, as follows:
Creating the Digital Files
The PDF files should be assembled in an orderly form. The entire content of each issue should be contained within the same electronic file (including the cover, if any), and the pages should be arranged in sequential reading order.
The PDF files must be viewable and searchable, and they must be free of any access restrictions, such as password protection, watermarks, or other Digital Rights Management (DRM).
The PDF files also must contain embedded fonts, meaning that the fonts used in each issue should be included within the file itself. If the fonts are properly embedded, the Copyright Office should be able to see the fonts that appeared in each issue when it was originally published. To determine if the fonts have been embedded, open the file with Adobe Acrobat Pro or Adobe Reader and select the option for “file / properties / fonts”. If the fonts are included in the file you should see “(Embedded)” or “(Embedded Subset)” after each font listed under the heading “Fonts Used in this Document”.
Uploading the Digital Files
You should upload each issue to the electronic registration system, and each issue should be contained in a separate PDF file.
To be clear, you may upload all of the files during the same upload session and you may upload all of them at the same time. You do not need to upload each file one by one. For additional guidance on how to upload files to the electronic registration system, consult the tutorial on the Copyright Office’s website.
Important Note: The file size for each PDF must not exceed 500 MB. If necessary, the files may be compressed to comply with this requirement, but you should not submit them in a compressed file, such as a .cab, .rar, or .zip file.
Special Relief from the Deposit Requirements
As a general rule, the Copyright Office will not accept physical copies, such as a print copy of each issue. Likewise, the Office will not accept digital copies that have been saved onto a flash drive, disc, or other electronic storage device.
In exceptional circumstances, the Office may grant special relief from the digital deposit requirement. The request must be made in writing, and it should explain why the applicant is unable to upload digital files that satisfy the deposit requirements described above. The request may be included in the “Note to Copyright Office” field on the Certification screen.
The Copyright Office may grant a request for special relief, subject to such conditions that the Associate Register of Copyrights and Director of the Office of Registration Policy and Practice may impose on the applicant.
Requests for special relief will be considered on a case-by-case basis. But the fact that a serial is published in a physical form does not necessarily mean that a request will be granted. Serials are typically created using digital publishing software, even though the issue itself may be distributed in a physical form. The Office may accept an electronic file that was used to create the physical copy, if it contains a complete copy of the issue and satisfies the other legal and formal requirements for this group registration option.
For additional information concerning special relief, see Chapter 1500, Section 1508.8 of the Compendium of U.S. Copyright Office Practices, Third Edition.