August 2018

For many companies and individuals, filing for separate copyright registrations for a single work at a time can seem tedious, time consuming and expensive, while their business requires churning out countless designs in one season.  Is there any way to file for copyright registrations for multiple works within one application? While there used to be more options, the recent rulings by the United States Copyright Office effective since September, have limited the ways for registering copyrights for multiple works in one application.

Copyright For Unpublished Collections

If the works have never been published the answer is still yes and the process is simple.  Multiple works can be registered as an unpublished collection through the filing of one application with one filing fee and accompanying deposits.  A copyright registration on an unpublished collection protects each of the individual works in the collection. However, the Copyright Office is planning to change this procedure in the foreseeable future.  A recent proposal, if enacted, would limit the number of unpublished works to five pieces in an application.


Unpublished Collective Work

Another option is to register the works as an unpublished collective work.  In this case, the registration covers the selection, coordination or arrangement of the works within the collection.  The registration of an unpublished collective work will cover the underlying works within the collection as well if the claimant owns the copyright in each of the individual works and the collective work.  This approach would be suitable for filing an unpublished catalog or brochure for example.


Copyright a Single Unit of Publication

If the works have been published, then in order to file for copyright registration on multiple works in a single application, the works must be physically packaged together by the claimant and first published together.  The Copyright Office refers to this as a “unit of publication.” A unit of publication is “a package of separately fixed elements and works that are physically bundled together for distribution to the public as a single, integrated unit, and all of the works are first published in that integrated unit.” Copyright Compendium (Third) § 1107.1.  The works must be packaged together and distributed to the public as a physical unit and cannot be in digital form.  Additionally, the unit must contain an actual copy of each of the individual works. A catalog that depicts photographs of items offered for sale as a unit is not considered a unit of publication even if these items can be purchased from the catalog either on individual basis or as a set.

A copyright registration for a unit of publication covers each of the individual works within the unit.  Examples of units of publication include board games including the instructions, game board, and playing pieces; a jewelry box containing a necklace and matching earrings set that are packaged together and distributed to the public as a unit; a CD including sound recordings packaged together with cover art and liner notes; a package of greeting cards; a box set of music CDs; a book published with a CD-ROM; a DVD set with multiple DVDs containing a movie, trailers and deleted scenes; and a multimedia kit containing a book, a compact disc and a poster.

In order to file a copyright registration based on a unit of publication the following conditions must be met: 1) The individual works are bundled together and distributed as a unit; 2) all of the copyrightable elements must be recognizable as self-contained works; 3) all of the individual works claimed in the application must be first published as a single unit on the same date; 4) there is one copyright claimant for all of the works claimed in the unit; and 5) the claimant must be the one that physically  packaged or caused the packaging of the works together into the single unit.

How To Copyright A Collection: Applications and Costs

For purposes of preparing the application to register with the Copyright Office, the “Single Application” option cannot be used for a unit of publication, rather the “Standard Application” option must be used.  The difference is the government fee. For the “Single Application” option the fee is $35.00 and for “Standard Application” option, the government fee is $55.00. The title of the unit of publication should be provided as the title of the work.  The Copyright Office also recommends that the titles of each of the underlying works be provided in the Contents Title section of the application. The application should explicitly state in the Note to Copyright Office section of the application that the applicant is applying for registration on multiple works within the unit of publication.  If the application registers then the certificate of registration would state “Basis for registration: Unit of publication.”

Based on the recent Copyright Office regulations, the safest approach is to register each work separately to avoid any potential doubt on the validity of the registration.  Otherwise applicants must make sure that their works fall squarely within the definition of a single unit of publication to be eligible to register the individual elements of the unit together in one application.  

If you plan to register your copyrighted creations visit for easy online copyright registrations.