April 1, 2020
Photographers may have seen announcements about a temporary extension of the three month grace-period for registering your copyright, but because the change does not apply to registrations that can be submitted entirely online, most photographers who have access to a computer and are registering their copyright by submitting their deposit online do not benefit from this change. The extension does apply to registrants who are unable to submit a physical deposit of their work because of COVID-19 disruptions.
The CARES Act legislation authorizes the Register of Copyrights to temporarily adjust timing provisions in the Copyright Act if she determines that a national emergency is generally disrupting the normal operation of the copyright system. She has acted on that authority, specifically extending the grace period to register work and be eligible for statutory damages and attorney fees under section 412 of the Act.
Under existing law, one must register a copyrighted work before an infringement takes place or within three months after its first publication in order to be eligible to be awarded statutory damages and attorney’s fees under the Copyright Act. Maria Strong, Acting Register of Copyrights and Director of the U.S. Copyright Office, is “extending the three-month window for applicants who can show that they were unable to comply due to the emergency — for example, because they could not mail physical materials or lacked access to a computer. To qualify, an applicant must submit a statement certifying under penalty of perjury that they would have met the deadline but for the national emergency.”
This extension does not apply to electronic applications generally but may apply: (i) to electronic applications where the applicant is unable to submit a physical copy of the deposit, where required, and (ii) when the applicant is unable to submit an application electronically or physically during the disruption.
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