Let’s talk about fees. Not everyone’s favorite topic, I’ll admit, but it’s something the Copyright Office could not operate without.
Yesterday, the Copyright Office delivered our Fee Schedule and Analysis to Congress. Every three to five years, the Office engages in an in-depth study of our fees to determine whether to adjust them. To be clear, this fee study does not cover every fee that the Office charges, but it does cover those for services most used by the public, such as registration of claims and recordation of documents. Now that the fee study has been submitted, Congress has 120 days in which to either approve the fees by doing nothing, or pass a law stating that it does not approve of the new fees.
Part of the Office’s analysis of our fees concerns cost recovery, or what percentage of the cost of a particular service (such as processing a claim for registration) the Office should recover through fees. Recovery is not our only concern, however; we also consider fairness, equity, and the objectives of the copyright system. Thus, as a matter of practice, most of the Office’s fees only recover a percentage of costs (the exact percentage varies by fee). This is to encourage as much participation in the copyright system as possible by pricing our services so that they remain in reach of users.
Back in 2018 when we issued our request for public comments, the Office proposed several fee increases. We received numerous comments, most of them challenging these increases, and many arguing that adjusting fees to the proposed level would significantly reduce applications for copyright registration. The Office thoroughly considered all of the comments we received and as a result we have made several changes. Overall, a number of important fees have been kept the same, such as group registration for photographs, a few have been reduced, and some have increased slightly. Regarding the services most used by the public, the Office is now proposing raising the fee for the Standard Application from $55 to $65, which is $10 less than the 2018 proposal. Similarly, the Single Application (our lower-priced option for single works by individual authors) will go from $35 to $45, which is also $10 less than the 2018 proposal. None of these increases allows the Office to fully recover our costs, however.
The Office also has adjusted the fees for group options, which allow creators to register multiple works for a single fee and represent a tremendous value when looked at on a work-by-work basis. Indeed, one fee that was not raised—that for a group of published or unpublished photographs—works out to roughly 7 cents per work if the maximum of 750 photographs are registered. Similarly, the option for registering a claim in a group of contributions to periodicals allows registration of unlimited number of works for $85, provided they were all published within a twelve-month period.
The Copyright Office strives to make sure that our fees are both fiscally responsible and provide a good value for our customers. During the next few months, we will begin preparing the final rule that contains a schedule of all the new fees that will enter into effect next spring, barring congressional action. Please continue to watch our website and follow us on Twitter for all the work underway at the Copyright Office serving the copyright community.