Registering the copyright in your creative work seems relatively simple. After all, the copyright registration process requires only sending the U.S. Copyright Office three items:

  • a completed application,
  • the filing fee, and
  • a copy of the work (called a deposit).

Yet, some confusing – albeit certainly not unsolvable – questions can materialize at the start of the process. One such potential quandary is whether you may use the “single application” or must use the “standard application” for your electronically-filed copyright registration.

Benefits of Electronic Copyright Registration

The Copyright Office encourages electronically-filed applications over mailed-in paper applications. Electronic registration offers registrants the following benefits:

  • a lower filing fee,
  • faster processing time,
  • the ability to track application status online, and
  • fewer opportunities to make errors on the application.

Single Application Eligibility

In June 2013, the U.S. Copyright Office introduced the single application as an additional option for electronic registration designed to streamline the process for applications viewed as the most administratively simple. Registration on the single application is available only if the application meets all three of the following requirements:

A Single Author. Works with two or more authors are not eligible.

A Single Owner (i.e., claimant), who must be the same person as the author. This excludes a work created by an individual author who wants to hold ownership in the work through a separate corporate entity. The owner may not have obtained any portion of the ownership interest through a work made for hire or other assignment.

A Single Work. This means that the application must be for one book, one song, one poem, one photograph, etc. Single application filing is not available for collective works, unpublished collections, group registrations, databases, or websites.

Works eligible for electronic registration (not all works are so eligible) but not meeting all the single application requirements must be filed on the standard application.

Consequences of Incorrectly Using the Single Application

If you use the single application for a work that is not eligible, your mistake will delay processing until you submit the additional filing fee. Currently, the single application electronic filing fee is $35 while the standard application electronic filing fee is $55. More significantly, your effective date of registration will not be until the date on which the Copyright Office receives the proper fee. With the Copyright Office currently taking up to eight months to process electronically-filed applications, the delay in filing date could potentially make you ineligible for attorney’s fees and statutory damages in the event your copyright work is infringed.