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Determining publication in the digital age

On Behalf of | Sep 9, 2020 | Intellectual Property |

Copyrights protects the fruits of authorship or creation such as literature. But a recent digital registration option proposed by the U.S. Copyright Office for short online literary works, known as GRTX, generated controversy and presents intellectual property legal questions.


If adopted, GRTX will allow an applicant to register up to 50 short online literary words with only one application and filing fee. The group registration option will cover the copyrightable text for each work presented for that group. This will permit the copyright owner to seek a separate award for each protected work that was infringed.

A short online literary work must contain at least 50 and no more than 17,500 words to qualify as an online literary work that is eligible for group registration. The claim must be limited to the text appearing in each work, all the works in the group should be first published online, the works need to be published within three consecutive months and the text in all the works must be written by the same author or co-written by the same joint authors.

Additionally, the author or joint authors should be named as the claimants for each work even if an author is not the owner of any work in the group. The work groups may not be made for hire, each work must contain a title which is also listed on the application and the applicant must include a title for the whole group.


GRTX was criticized for not helping authors and bloggers who need it the most because a work must be published before it can be registered. One expert said that the definition of publication has not changed since the 1976 enactment of the Copyright Act. Hitting publish and displaying a blog or online article is not legal publication, according to that expert.

The copyright office acknowledged this problem in comments on the proposed final rule. Registration requires an application for published works that contains the date and nation of that work’s publication.

The Office explained that including published and unpublished works in GRTX would undermine the examination process. It said that it will accept the applicant’s representation that the website content is published or unpublished unless it is clearly implausible or different than information held by the Office.

Attorney may help you protect your creations as this rule evolves. They can prosecute infringement.