Modernizing Copyright Recordation

On November 13, 2017, the Copyright Office published an interim rule amending its regulations concerning the recordation of transfers of copyright ownership and other documents pertaining to a copyright under 17 U.S.C. § 205, and notices of termination under sections 203, 304(c), and 304(d). The current recordation process is a time-consuming and labor-intensive paper-based one, requiring remitters to submit their documents in hard copy. On May 18, 2017, the Office issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) proposing amendments to the Office’s recordation regulations designed to update them in anticipation of development of a new electronic recordation system. The NPRM also noted that at least some aspects of the proposal could be implemented prior to the rollout of the new system. The interim rule adopts a number of the proposed improvements to the extent practicable under the current paper-based recordation system. The Office intends to replace the interim rule with a final rule once the new online system is publicly released. Issues raised in the NPRM and by commenters not addressed by the interim rule will continue to be evaluated by the Office as system development progresses and will be addressed in the eventual final rule.

While the November 2017 interim rule made many changes and clarifications, the general mechanics of recordation remain essentially the same. One of the more notable amendments is that electronically signed documents can now be recorded, expanding the universe of recordable documents. Additionally, a document cover sheet containing various certifications and indexing information is now required, which should aid remitters in confirming their submissions are complete and compliant, and should also benefit the Office by making the examination process more efficient.

On January 23, 2020, the Office published a supplemental interim rule to govern a pilot program through which certain remitters can record certain types of documents electronically online. The supplemental interim rule is being established in anticipation of a forthcoming pilot program as the next step in the recordation modernization process, which will lead to a full public release of the Office’s electronic recordation system in the future. The Office will initiate its pilot program through a separate announcement.