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Content Creators: Leveling the Copyright Field

Art Neill and Erika Lee

Copyright registration of published video content has changed little since the Copyright Act of 1976.

Since then, there has been enormous growth in the volume of video content produced. This growth has come primarily from movie and TV studios but has been fueled by the vast quantities of video content produced by the general public—much of it being used in a variety of commercial endeavors from YouTube to social media influencers.

In a scholarly article, recently published in the University of Texas Intellectual Property Law Journal, California Western New Media Rights Executive Director Art Neill and Staff Attorney Erika Lee consider some options for modernizing copyright registration.

The article titled Fixing Copyright Registration For Online Video Creators - The Case for Group Registration of Published Videos considers the history of published group registration since the Copyright Act of 1976 and argues that future modernization efforts should include group registration of video.

Group registration is an administrative procedure established by the Copyright Office that allows content creators to register a group of related works in certain limited categories with one application and one filing fee.

The article addresses key problems with the current prohibition on group registration of published videos. It also suggests the way creators currently make videos can be compared with the works presently acceptable for group registration post-publication.

“One of New Media Rights' core values is that our scholarship, public education, and policy advocacy be deeply rooted in our client representation,” says Neill. “The stories of under-served creators and internet users help scholars and regulators learn how the law works in real life and then make changes to serve the public better. Our scholarship here is based on the real challenges that under-served clients face when trying to register and protect their copyrighted works. It offers solutions as to what can be done to improve the system.”

In the article, Part I (A) explores how current video registration options are ineffective and cost-prohibitive for online video creators because there is no group registration option for published videos. Because of the quantity and time-sensitivity of much of this video content, individual registration is expensive and time-consuming, making it impossible to post registered content within appropriate time frames.

Part I (B) analyzes the current list of acceptable works for post-publication group registration. It then compares online video to those works to show that online video production and consumption follow the same trajectory as other works now able to be registered as a group post-publication.

Part I (C) argues that the Copyright Office should open a rulemaking process to establish group registration of published videos and further proposes ideas on how to eliminate unnecessary challenges for online video creators.

“As video production and distribution continue to evolve, it's important that our regulations have the capacity to adapt as well so that the creative marketplace (and creativity in general) can continue to flourish,” says Lee.

“Most importantly, we hope that this article will encourage the improvement of the registration system to help level the playing field for all copyright owners.”

To read Art Neill and Erika Lee’s complete article, contact the University of Texas Intellectual Property Review at eic@tiplj.org.

About New Media Rights: New Media Rights is an independently funded program of California Western School of Law, a 501(c)(3) non-profit. It is a program that provides preventative, one-to-one legal services to creators, entrepreneurs, and internet users whose projects require specialized internet, intellectual property, privacy, media, and communications law expertise. https://www.newmediarights.org