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Copyright Office Proposes New Fee Model

Fee Study

Office proposes new fee schedule

Today, the Copyright Office announces a new proposed fee schedule. The Office charges fees for a variety of public services, such as filing applications for registration, recording documents, and researching and copying records. Every three to five years, we review the costs of services and assess new fees. Typically, the Office does not charge the full cost of its services to the public.

Instead, the cost of running the Office comes 60 percent through fees and the rest from congressional appropriations. Therefore, the fee actually charged to the public for a specific service is often much less than the cost to the Copyright Office. The U.S. government makes up the difference in order to support the copyright system.

The Copyright Office realizes that fees are a critical aspect of creators’ budgets and that even a small cost increase can have significant effects on the everyday lives of the creators the Office supports. The Office takes very seriously its legal mandate to assess fees based on reasonable costs (including accounting for inflation) and to be sure they are “fair and equitable and give due consideration to the objectives of the copyright system.”

When assessing fees, the Office must look at the benefits of the copyright system to copyright owners, users, and the public at large. Because many services are voluntary, the Office also carefully weighs how fee increases will impact the number of people who register works or record documents. If the Office sets fees too high, participation in the copyright system will drop significantly to the detriment of the public interest.

To help develop its new fee schedule, the Office hired consultants Booz Allen Hamilton to thoroughly assess the actual cost of Office services, including looking at current and future costs. The consultant also analyzed something called elasticity—the percentage of participation the Office will lose depending on how much fees are increased. The consultant found that 85 percent of the Office’s fees are elastic, meaning that changes to fees will impact the demand for many Office services—and more significant changes such as much higher fees will decrease the use of Office services.

After considering this analysis, as well as critical policy considerations, the Office is recommending certain fee increases to account for the increased costs of providing services. Also, the Office is undertaking a comprehensive effort to modernize its processes and systems. This will result in a more efficient Office, but modernization is expensive. Fees have been adjusted to partially account for modernization costs, and the Office is studying and implementing new ways to more effectively spend its resources and streamline processes to curb unnecessary costs.

The Office struck a balance between ensuring that services are accessible and priced to achieve maximum usage while still recovering enough of the Office’s costs. For example, the Office proposes raising fees for its standard application from $55 to $75. While this is an increase of a little over 36 percent, it is still does not account for the actual full cost of this service to the Office, which is $90. Similarly, the Office proposes raising the fee for filing a paper supplementary registration from $130 to $150 (a change of 15 percent), but the actual cost of that service is $413. According to the analysis, higher fees will decrease overall fee processing volumes by approximately 14 percent, but that decrease will be offset by a more appropriate (but still not full) level of cost recovery. In total, the Office estimates that the proposed fees will generate roughly $41 million per year.

Now that the Copyright Office has published the proposed fees, we invite your comments. The commenting period will be open until July 23. Whether you agree with the Office’s proposal, or you have a suggested change, your input helps the Office make a fully informed decision. The Office will review and consider public comments and issue a final rule later this year. The new fee schedule will go into effect 120 days after publication of the final rule, unless Congress passes a law stating that it does not approve the fee schedule.

The Copyright Office is working towards modernizing its processes and becoming more accessible to the public it serves. This new fee schedule will allow the Office to achieve these goals and better promote creativity and innovation by protecting the rights of creators.