Copyright Office backlog slows issuance of copyright registrations

Applications for registration of a U.S. copyright historically have required a straightforward — and relatively quick — process.  Once the proper forms have been submitted, applicants could expect to receive their certificates of registration within a few months.

However, a recent article in the Washington Post indicates that the processing backlog for non-electronic applications is now as much as 18 months.  The waiting time for electronic applications is about six months — and even that is more than expected when the Copyright Office first made electronic filing available in 2008. 

So how can applicants expedite the application process?  Opting for electronic filing via the Copyright Office’s eCO Online System is the lowest-cost option, requiring only a $35 filing fee. The Copyright Office asserts that 90% of eCO applicants should receive their registrations within six months. 

If faster processing is needed, in certain circumstances applicants can request special handling of a copyright application.    The Copyright Office’s target for processing a special handling application is five business days.  Special handling is available in the following circumstances:

  • pending or prospective litigation;
  • customs matters; and
  • contract or publishing deadlines that necessitate the expedited issuance of a certificate.

Special handling applications also require a relatively steep filing fee  — currently $645, going up to $760 on August 1, 2009.

Despite the backlogs, the Copyright Office still moves more quickly than other U.S. intellectual property registrars.  Plus, the Copyright Office does provide alternatives that can speed up the filings.  In comparison, as noted in previous posts on this blog, backlogs for patent filings at the USPTO continue to grow, with the average patent application currently taking over 32 months to grant.

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