Having misunderstood the submission process for music, I received a letter from the copyright office threatening to change the date of receipt of my work given a payment shortfall.
I was immediately shocked. Having noted that the work was received by the copyright office, I went ahead and assumed it was protected. A friend wanted to play an aspect of one of my musical pieces on the radio, which he did, but it turns out I may not have been protected by the copyright office.
Furthermore, I have been sending my last collection of songs to various individuals, like the agent for Michael Tilson Thomas, who, in effect, could conceivably have had the work before the copyright office acknowledged its receipt.
Talk about casting a chill over my creative heart. So, I am currently waiting to hear from the copyright office to see how they side:
“You might get the original date or the date when we received the your complete payment. It will be up to the examiner to determination which date they will use.” This according to Felicia Dozier, Accounting Technician, Copyright Accounts Section.
Why would such a decision be up to an examiner? An individual?
The purpose of the Copyright Office is “To promote creativity by administering and sustaining an effective national copyright system.”
I realize that not making full payment and also getting protection may play into others having no impetus to complete their payments if copyright protection is assured. But, a person wanting to protect their creation(s) really has, at least as far as I can imagine, no interest in undermining their protection. Why would this be assumed? Why would mistakes be punished? I am not sure I understand the psychology or the intelligence of such a decision.
Then I come upon “The Final Rule Regarding Group Registration for Unpublished Works,” where “After soliciting comments, the U.S. Copyright Office adopted a final rule creating a group registration option for unpublished works, allowing registration of up to ten unpublished works for a single fee.” (See: https://www.copyright.gov/rulemaking/group-unpublished/). Who writes this stuff? Who comes up with these decisions?
Apparently, the rationale is “The rule offers a number of benefits over current practices: it will allow the Office to more easily examine each work for copyrightable authorship, create a more robust record of the claim, and improve the overall efficiency of the registration process.”
The problem is copyright protection shouldn’t be about the office or the officers. Submissions by creators, for example, is done with the intention that whatever was sent is contained on or as the medium submitted and does not need to be examined until a breach of copyright is found or a copyright needs protection. We don’t need “more robust records of the claim,” and the efficiency should simply be a receipt, cataloging, and enforcement of the rights of the owners of copyrights. A system should not send shivers down the spines of the creatives nor act to disenfranchise them. To limit my submissions to ten unpublished works for a single fee effectively cuts me out of the process altogether. I cannot afford to protect hundreds of musical works at $85 per 10 a pop. I sometimes write 10 compositions a day. As it stands, 350 works is nearly $3000, which is effectively beyond my ability to pay.
Who uses such phrases as “Final Rule.” Is this the end, the final say? How absurd and ridiculous!
I believe the Copyright Office may have written itself out of existence, undermined its mission.
Either the rules change to benefit the creators or there is no purpose for it, at least as far as I am concerned. It is certainly not serving The People, and for that reason it simply may not act in this way. As a governmental agency, it needs to be reined in and/or repopulated.