Copyright Office Uses Emergency Powers to Extend Filing Time (2)

April 1, 2020, 3:57 PMUpdated: April 1, 2020, 9:04 PM

The U.S. Copyright Office is extending a deadline for copyright owners who seek to register a work that’s been infringed, in response to delays caused by the new coronavirus outbreak.

Copyright owners generally must register their work before infringement or within three months of the work’s publication to seek statutory damages or attorney fees in a suit. The Copyright Office said owners who haven’t been able to submit their work because of the Covid-19 pandemic can do so until within 30 days of the Acting Register of Copyrights declaring an end to the emergency.

The reprieve could mean big dollars for infringed copyright owners who can show the pandemic prevented them from registering.

Copyright owners can always sue within three years of discovering infringement. But they’re generally limited to actual damages caused by the infringement if they register too late, and they could end up footing legal bills that often outweigh any potential award.

The modification will remain in effect for 60 days unless the Acting Register of Copyrights “announces the period of disruption has ended before that time,” the office said in its announcement. The office, which was empowered to make the change under the recently passed stimulus legislation, said it may extend the modification further if necessary.

Creators who can submit electronically but can’t provide a required physical copy of the work should still file the electronic element of the application, the agency said. That filing should include a declaration, under penalty of perjury, that the national emergency prevented submission of the physical deposit. Applicants must submit the deposit within 30 days of the end of the disruption.

The change doesn’t apply to all-electronic submissions unless the emergency prevented computer access, the notice said. Creators able to submit physical copies to the Copyright Office also still should do so. The Copyright Office isn’t currently processing physical deposits because employees are working remotely, but the effective registration dates for copyrights will still be the date the office receives them.

Termination Rights

The office also announced an extension of deadlines related to creators’ rights to revoke copyright licenses between 35 and 40 years after the agreement. Copyright law allows creators to regain control of their work in cases where its value wasn’t fully apparent when it signed away rights. Notice must be served between two and 10 years before termination.

A creator’s window to provide notice of termination will be extended if it expires during the disruption, and if the author serves notice of termination within 30 days of the end of the disruption. The notice must come with a declaration and explanation, under penalty of perjury, that the national emergency declared March 13 caused the delay. The rightsholder would still need to be served at least two years before the termination date.

The requirement that a termination notice must be recorded with the Copyright Office before the termination date will also be waived if the creator already notified the rightsholder, the termination date occurs during the disruption, and the author records the notice within thirty days of the disruption ending. That submission to the Copyright Office also must come with a note explaining how the emergency caused the delay.

For additional legal resources, visit Bloomberg Law In Focus: Coronavirus (Bloomberg Law Subscription)

(Updated with details from announcement)

To contact the reporter on this story: Kyle Jahner in Washington at kjahner@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Roger Yu at ryu@bloomberglaw.com; Keith Perine at kperine@bloomberglaw.com

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