Copyright owners may now be filing more copyright applications because district courts in New York, Arizona and Alaska have ruled that registration of a compilation does not suffice to register the individual works included in the compilation unless the individual works and authors are specifically identified on the application. For new works, copyright owners should now register new works individually in addition to registering the compilation, or specifically identify each work and author on the compilation application. For works previously included in a compilation registration, but not specifically identified, copyright owners must either seek individual registration or supplement the original registration. Prior to the three recent decisions, the Copyright Office had permitted, and based in part on that policy courts had allowed, that a single registration for the compilation sufficed to register the individual works included in that compilation regardless whether the individual authors and works were specifically identified.
I see the recent decisions as a product of the information age. The established rule was one steeped in practicality. It was cumbersome for owners to prepare applications, and for Copyright Office employees to file and catalog them. Searching was cumbersome, because one had to go to the Copyright Office to look through the catalog and review hard copy files. Access to deposit copies was restricted. As a practical matter, few were actually searching, and it seemed wasteful to require more burden and paper when a single registration would suffice in many instances.
Now we can now store, and find, almost everything online. Instead of having to send a person to the Copyright Office to look at paper records, one is increasingly able to get information online. And we expect that. We want to be able to access and search all information all the time. Now that logistical impediments to discovering information are being removed, we won’t tolerate faulty inputs. In particular for those who want to license, and therefore benefit from fast and complete access to comprehensive information about prior art, the modification of behavior certain to result from recent court decisions is a boon.