1105.4 The Scope of a Group Registration
When the U.S. Copyright Office issues a group registration it prepares one certificate of registration for the entire group and assigns one registration number to that certificate.
A registration for a group of unpublished works, a group of photographs, a group of contributions to periodicals, a group of short online literary works, or a group of secure test items covers the copyrightable authorship in each work that is submitted for registration, and each one is registered as a separate work. 37 C.F.R. § 202.4(n). A registration for a group of serials, newspapers, or newsletters covers the copyrightable authorship in each issue in the group, and in the case of newspapers and serials, each issue is registered as a separate collective work. See id.
This rule is consistent with the statutory scheme. The legislative history makes clear that group registration was “a needed and important liberalization of the law [then] in effect,” which to that point had required “separate registrations where related works or parts of a work are published separately.” H.R. REP. NO. 94-1476, at 154 (1976), reprinted in 1976 U.S.C.C.A.N. 5659, 5770. In particular, Congress noted that “the technical necessity for separate applications and fees has caused copyright owners to forego copyright altogether.” Id. Given that context, it would be anomalous for works registered under a group registration option to be given less protection than if they had been registered with separate applications.
With the exception of a registration for a group of database updates, a group registration does not cover the selection and arrangement of the works, because the group itself is not a work of authorship. For similar reasons, the group as a whole is not considered a compilation or a collective work. Instead, the group is merely an administrative classification created solely for the purpose of registering multiple works with one application and one filing fee. See 37 C.F.R. § 202.4(n).
Although an applicant may exercise some judgment in selecting and combining the works within the group, these decisions do not necessarily constitute copyrightable authorship. Instead, the selection of works is based solely on the regulatory requirements for the relevant group registration option, and the combination of those works is merely an administrative accommodation that exists solely for the purposes of registration and the convenience of the applicant.
Likewise, the group is not considered a derivative work. See id. When a group of works are combined together for the purpose of facilitating registration those works are not “recast, transformed, or adapted” in any way, and the group as a whole is not “a work based upon one or more preexisting works,” because there is no copyrightable authorship in simply following the administrative requirements for a group registration option. See 17 U.S.C. § 101 (definition of “derivative work”).
Copyright owners who use a group registration option may be entitled to claim a separate award of statutory damages for each work – ” or each issue in the case of serials, newspapers, or newsletters – ” that is covered by the registration, because a group registration covers each work or each issue that is submitted for registration (rather than the group as a whole). See 17 U.S.C. § 504 (C) (1) (stating that a copyright owner may be entitled to recover “an award of statutory damages for all infringements involved in the action, with respect to any one work”).
By contrast, a group registration for a database covers the updates or revisions that were added to the database during the period specified in the registration. Copyright owners that use this option are entitled to claim only one award of statutory damages in an infringement action, because the updates or revisions to a database are derivative compilations, and the statute provides that “all the parts of a compilation or derivative work constitute one work.” See id.
See generally Group Registration of Short Online Literary Works, 85 Fed. Reg. 37,341 (June 22, 2020); Group Registration of Newspapers, 82 Fed. Reg. 51,369, 51,372-73
(Nov. 6, 2017); Secure Tests, 82 Fed. Reg. 52,224, 52,228 (Nov. 13, 2017); Group
Registration of Contributions to Periodicals, 81 Fed. Reg. 86,634, 86,641 (Dec. 1, 2016);
Group Registration of Photographs, 81 Fed. Reg. 86,643, 86,652-53 (Dec. 1, 2016).