Title 37: Patents, Trademarks, and Copyrights
Part 203—FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT: POLICIES AND PROCEDURES
Subchapter A—Copyright Office and Procedures
(a) In general.
(1) The fee schedule of this section does not apply with respect to the charging of fees for those records for which the Copyright Act requires a fee to be charged. The fees required to be charged are contained in §201.3 of this chapter, or have been established by the Register of Copyrights or Library of Congress pursuant to the requirements of that section. The Copyright Office will charge for processing requests under FOIA in accordance with the provisions of this section and with the OMB Guidelines. For purposes of assessing fees for processing requests, FOIA establishes three categories of requesters:
(i) Commercial use requesters;
(ii) Non-commercial scientific or educational institutions or news media requesters; and
(iii) All other requesters.
(2) Different fees are assessed depending on the category. Requesters may seek a fee waiver, which the Office will consider in accordance with paragraph (k) of this section. To resolve any fee issues that arise under this section, an agency may contact a requester for additional information. The Office shall ensure that searches, review, and duplication are conducted in the most efficient and the least expensive manner. The Office will ordinarily collect all applicable fees before sending copies of records to a requester. Requesters must pay fees by check or money order made payable to the United States Copyright Office.
(b) Definitions. For the purpose of this section:
(1) Commercial use request is a request that asks for information for a use or purpose that furthers a commercial, trade, or profit interest, which can include furthering those interests through litigation. The Office's decision to place a requester in the commercial use category will be made on a case-by-case basis based on the requester's intended use of the information. The Office will notify requesters of their placement in this category.
(2) Direct costs are those expenses that the Office incurs in searching for, duplicating, and/or reviewing records in order to respond to a FOIA request. Direct costs do not include overhead expenses such as the costs of space, and of heating or lighting a facility.
(3) Duplication is reproducing a copy of a record, or of the information contained in it, necessary to respond to a FOIA request. Copies can take the form of paper, audiovisual materials, or electronic records, among others.
(4) Educational institution is any school that operates a program of scholarly research. A requester in this fee category must show that the request is made in connection with his or her role at the educational institution. The Office may seek verification from the requester that the request is in furtherance of scholarly research and the Office will advise requesters of their placement in this category.
(5) Noncommercial scientific institution is an institution that is not operated on a commercial basis and is operated solely for the purpose of conducting scientific research the results of which are not intended to promote any particular product or industry. A requester in this category must show that the request is authorized by and is made under the auspices of a qualifying institution that the records are sought to further scientific research and are not for a commercial use. The Office will advise requesters of their placement in this category.
(6) Representative of the news media is any person or entity that gathers information of potential interest to a segment of the public, uses its editorial skills to turn the raw materials into a distinct work, and distributes that work to an audience. The term “news” means information that is about current events or that would be of current interest to the public. A request for records supporting the news-dissemination function of the requester will not be considered to be for a commercial use. “Freelance” journalists who demonstrate a solid basis for expecting publication through a news media entity will be considered as a representative of the news media. A publishing contract would provide the clearest evidence that publication is expected; however, the Office can also consider a requester's past publication record in making this determination. The Office will advise requesters of their placement in this category.
(7) Review is the examination of a record located in response to a request in order to determine whether any portion of it is exempt from disclosure. Review includes taking all necessary steps to prepare a record for disclosure, including the process of redacting the record and marking the appropriate exemptions and time spent obtaining and considering any formal objection to disclosure made by a confidential commercial information submitter under §203.9. Review does not include time spent resolving general legal or policy issues regarding the application of exemptions. Review costs are properly charged even if a record ultimately is not disclosed.
(8) Search is the process of looking for and retrieving records or information responsive to a request. Search includes page-by-page or line-by-line identification of information within records and the reasonable efforts expended to locate and retrieve information from electronic records.
(c) Charging fees. In responding to FOIA requests, the Office will charge the following fees unless a waiver or reduction of fees has been granted under paragraph (k) of this section.
(i) Requests made by educational institutions, noncommercial scientific institutions, or representatives of the news media are not subject to search fees. The Office will charge search fees for all other requesters, subject to the restrictions of paragraph (d) of this section. Fees may be assessed for time spent searching even if the search fails to locate any responsive records or where the records located are subsequently determined to be entirely exempt from disclosure.
(ii) For each quarter hour spent by administrative staff in searching for a requested record, $7.50; for each quarter hour spent by professional staff in searching for a requested record, $17.50, with a half hour minimum in both cases.
(iii) For computer searches of records, which may be undertaken through the use of existing programming, the actual direct costs of conducting the search including the cost of operating a central processing unit for that portion of operating time that is directly attributable to searching for records responsive to a request, as well as the direct costs of operator/programmer salary apportionable to search (at no less than $65 per hour or fraction thereof).
(iv) For requests that require the retrieval of records stored by an agency at a Federal records center operated by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), agencies will charge additional costs in accordance with the Transactional Billing Rate Schedule established by NARA.
(2) Duplication. The Office will charge duplication fees to all requesters, subject to the restrictions of paragraph (d) of this section. The Office will honor a requester's preference for receiving a record in a particular form or format when the Office can readily reproduce it in the form or format requested. For copies of the public records, deposits, or indexes of the Office, the Office will charge fees according to §201.3 of this chapter. For copies of all other Copyright Office records not otherwise provided for in this section, a minimum fee of $15.00 for up to 15 pages and $.50 per page over 15.
(3) Review. The Office will charge review fees to requesters who make commercial use requests. Review fees will be assessed in connection with the initial review of the record to determine whether an exemption applies to a particular record or portion of a record. No charge will be made for review at the administrative appeal stage of exemptions applied at the initial review stage. If a particular exemption is deemed to no longer apply on appeal, any costs associated with the Office's re-review of the records may be assessed as review fees. Review fees will be charged at the same rates as described in paragraph (c)(1)(ii) of this section.
(4) Other direct costs. Other costs incurred by the Copyright Office in fulfilling a request will be chargeable at the actual cost to the Office.
(d) Restrictions on charging fees.
(i) If the Copyright Office fails to comply with FOIA's time limits in which to respond to a request, it may not charge search fees or, in the instances of requests from educational institutions, non-commercial scientific institutions, or representatives of the news media, may not charge duplication fees, except as described in this paragraph (d).
(ii) If the Office has determined that unusual circumstances, as defined by FOIA, apply and the agency provides timely written notice to the requester, a failure to comply with the time limit shall be excused for an additional 10 days.
(iii) If the Office has determined that unusual circumstances, as defined by FOIA, apply and more than 5,000 pages are necessary to respond to the request, the Office may charge fees if the Office has provided timely written notice of the unusual circumstances to the requester in accordance with FOIA and the Office has discussed with the requester (or made not less than three good-faith attempts to do so) how the requester could effectively limit the scope of the request in accordance with 5 U.S.C. 552(a)(6)(B)(ii).
(iv) If a court has determined that exceptional circumstances exist, as defined by the FOIA, a failure to comply with the time limits shall be excused for the length of time provided by the court order.
(2) No search or review fees will be charged for a quarter-hour period unless more than half of that period is required for search or review.
(3) Except for requesters seeking records for a commercial use, the Office will provide without charge:
(i) The first 100 pages of duplication (or the cost equivalent for other media); and
(ii) The first two hours of search.
(4) No fee will be charged when the total fee, after deducting the first 100 pages (or its cost equivalent) and the first two hours of search, is equal to or less than $25.00.
(5) No fees will be charged for ordinary packaging and mailing costs.
(e) Notice of anticipated fees in excess of $25.00.
(1) When the Office determines or estimates that the fees to be assessed will exceed $25.00, the Office shall notify the requester of the actual or estimated amount of the fees, including a breakdown of the fees for search, review or duplication, unless the requester has indicated a willingness to pay fees as high as those anticipated. If only a portion of the fee can be estimated readily, the Office will advise the requester accordingly. If the request is a noncommercial use requester, the notice shall include the services provided without charge indicated in paragraph (d)(3) of this section, and shall advise the requester whether those entitlements have been provided.
(2) When a requester has been provided notice of anticipated fees in excess of $25.00, the request shall not be considered received and further work will not be completed until the requester commits in writing to pay the actual or estimated total fee, to designate which fees the requester is willing to pay, or, for noncommercial requests, to indicate that the requester seeks only the services that can be provided in paragraph (d)(3) of this section without charge. The Office is not required to accept payment in installments.
(3) When the requester has committed to pay some designated amount of fees, but the Office estimates that the total fee will exceed that amount, the Office shall toll processing of the request when it notifies the requester of the estimated fees in excess of the requester's commitment. The Office shall inquire whether the requester wishes to revise the amount of fees the requester is willing to pay or modify the request. Once the requester responds, the time to respond will resume from where it was at the date of the notification.
(4) The Office shall make available the FOIA Public Liaison to assist the requester in reformulating a request to meet the requester's needs at a lower cost.
(f) Charges for other services. Although not required to provide special services, if the Office chooses to do so as a matter of administrative discretion, the direct costs of providing the service shall be charged.
(g) Charging interest. The Office may charge interest on any unpaid bill starting on the 31st day following the date of billing the requester. Interest charges will be assessed at the rate provided in 31 U.S.C. 3717 and will accrue from the billing date until payment is received by the Office.
(h) Aggregating requests. When the Office reasonably believes that a requester or group of requesters acting in concert is attempting to divide a single request into a series of requests for the purpose of avoiding fees, the Office may aggregate those requests and charge accordingly. The Office may presume that multiple requests of this type made within a 30-day period have been made in order to avoid fees. For requests separated by a longer period, agencies will aggregate them only where there is a reasonable basis for determining that aggregation is warranted in view of all the circumstances involved. Multiple requests involving unrelated matters cannot be aggregated.
(i) Advance payments.
(1) For requests other than those described in paragraph (i)(2) or (3) of this section, the Copyright Office cannot require the requester to make an advance payment before work is commenced or continued on a request. Payment owed for work already completed is not an advance payment.
(2) When the Office determines or estimates that a total fee to be charged under this section will exceed $250.00, it may require that the requester make an advance payment up to the amount of the entire anticipated fee before beginning to process the request. The Office may elect to process the request prior to collecting fees when it receives a satisfactory assurance of full payment from a requester with a history of prompt payment.
(3) Where a requester has previously failed to pay a properly charged FOIA fee to any agency within 30 calendar days of the billing date, the Office may require that the requester pay the full amount due, plus any applicable interest on that prior request, and the Office may require that the requester make an advance payment of the full amount of any anticipated fee before the Office begins to process a new request or continues to process a pending request or any pending appeal. Where the Office has a reasonable basis to believe that a requester has misrepresented the requester's identity in order to avoid paying outstanding fees, it may require that the requester provide proof of identity.
(4) In cases in which the Office requires advance payment, the request will not be considered received and further work will not be completed until the required payment is received. If the requester does not pay the advance payment within 30 calendar days after the date of the Office's fee determination, the request will be closed.
(j) Other statutes specifically providing for fees. The provisions of this section do not apply with respect to the charging of fees for which the copyright law requires a fee to be charged. Requesters asking for copies of records about themselves shall be processed under the Privacy Act fee schedule found in §204.6 of this chapter. Fees for services by the Office in the administration of the copyright law are contained in §201.3 of this chapter. In instances where records responsive to a request are subject to the statutorily-based fee schedule, the Office will inform the requester of the service and appropriate fee.
(k) Requirements for waiver or reduction of fees.
(1) Records responsive to a request shall be furnished without charged or at a reduced rate where the Office determines, based on all available information, that the requester has demonstrated that:
(i) Disclosure of the requested information is in the public interested because it is likely to contribute significantly to the public understanding of the operations or activities of the government; and
(ii) Disclosure of the information is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester.
(2) In deciding whether the requester has demonstrated the requirement of paragraph (k)(1)(i) of this section, the Office shall consider all four of the following factors:
(i) The subject of the request must concern identifiable operations or activities of the Federal Government, with a connection that is direct and clear, not remote or attenuated.
(ii) Disclosure of the requested records must be meaningfully informative about government operations or activities in order to be “likely to contribute” to an increased public understanding of those operations or activities. The disclosure of information that already is in the public domain, in either the same or a substantially identical form, would not contribute to such understanding where nothing new would be added to the public's understanding.
(iii) The disclosure must contribute to the understanding of a reasonably broad audience of persons interested in the subject, as opposed to the individual understanding of the requester. A requester's expertise in the subject area as well as the requester's ability and intention to effectively convey information to the public shall be considered. It shall be presumed that a representative of the news media will satisfy this consideration.
(iv) The public's understanding of the subject in question must be enhanced by the disclosure to a significant extent. However, the Office shall not make value judgments about whether the information at issue is “important” enough to be made public.
(3) In deciding whether the requester has demonstrated the requirement of paragraph (k)(1)(ii) of this section, the Office shall consider the following two factors:
(i) The Office shall identify any commercial interest of the requester that would be furthered by the requested disclosure. Requesters shall be given an opportunity to provide explanatory information regarding this consideration.
(ii) A waiver or reduction of fees is justified where the public interest is greater than any identified commercial interest in disclosure. The Office ordinarily shall presume that where a news media requester has satisfied the public interest standard, the public interest will be the interest primarily served by disclosure to that requester. Disclosure to data brokers or others who merely compile and market government information for direct economic return shall not be presumed to primarily serve the public interest.
(4) Where only some of the records to be released satisfy the requirements for a waiver of fees, a waiver shall be granted for those records.
(5) Requests for a waiver or reduction of fees should be made when the request is first submitted to the Office and should address the criteria referenced above. A requester may submit a fee waiver request at a later time so long as the underlying record request is pending or on administrative appeal. When a requester who has committed to pay fees subsequently asks for a waiver of those fees and that waiver is denied, the requester shall be required to pay any costs incurred up to the date the fee waiver request was received.
[82 FR 9508, Feb. 7, 2017]