1114.1 Eligibility Requirements
A group of photographs may be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office, provided that the following conditions have been met:
• All the works in the group must be photographs.
• All of the photographs must be either published or unpublished. An applicant may not submit a group that includes both published and unpublished photographs.
• The group may include no more than 750 photographs, and the application must specify the total number of photographs that are included in the group.
• All the photographs must have been created by the same author.
NOTE: The photographs may be registered as works made for hire (I) if they were created for the same party, (ii) if that party is named as the author of each photo, and (iii) if all the photos are identified in the application as “works made for hire.”
• The copyright claimant for each photograph must be the same person or organization.
• The applicant must provide a title for the group as a whole,
In addition, the applicant must satisfy the following condition when registering a group of published photographs:
• All the photographs must be first published within the same calendar year, and the application must specify the earliest and most recent date that the photographs were first published during that year.
See 37 C.F.R. § 202.4 (H) (1)- (4), (H) (6)- (7), (I) (1)- (4), (I) (6)- (7).
Photographs that do not satisfy these requirements cannot be registered using these options.
The group registration options for published and unpublished photographs are mutually exclusive of each other. An applicant may register a group of unpublished photos if all the images are unpublished, and may register a group of published photos if all the images were published in the same calendar year. But an applicant may not combine published and unpublished photos in the same submission, or combine photos that were published in different years.
The person or entity who owns the copyright in a photograph determines whether that work should be published. If the author or copyright owner decides to publish a particular photograph, that party decides when, where, and how that work should be published. For purposes of registration, a photograph is published on the specific month, day, and year that a copy or multiple copies of that work are distributed to the public for the first time.
For example, a photograph may be published when a photographer sends one or more copies of that work to a client. By contrast, the mere public display of a photograph – ” either by the author, copyright owner, or a third party – ” does not constitute publication in and of itself.
Example: Photos Published through the Authorized Distribution of One or More Copies of the Work
• On May 1st Parker Peters took 600 photos of the President. Later that day he transmitted one copy of each photo to the publisher of the Daily Trumpet, along with a license to distribute or display each image.
On May 2nd the publisher posted one photo on its website. On May 3rd the publisher used a second photo in its social media feed. On November 4th the publisher printed a third photo on the front page of its newspaper. (The publisher saved the rest of the photos for possible use on a future date.)
All 600 photos were published on May 1st when Parker sent copies of these images to the publisher. The fact that the publisher distributed or displayed three photos on May 2nd, May 3rd, and November 4th (and saved the rest) is irrelevant to the publication status of the works.
A photograph is also published when one or more copies of that work are offered to a group of persons for the first time for purposes of further distribution or public display. For instance, a photo may be published when a photographer offers one copy of that work to agencies, wire services, and websites, along with a license to further distribute or publicly display that image. But as mentioned above, the mere public display of a photograph, in and of itself, does not constitute publication.
• Example: Photos Published by Offering One or More Copies of the Work to a Group of Persons for the Purpose of Further Distribution or Public DisplayOn January 20th Adam Ansel took 500 photos at the Inauguration. Later that day he offered these photos to the Associated Press (AP) and United Press International (UPI), along with a license to further distribute or publicly display each image.
Pursuant to this license, AP and UPI offered all of the images to their clients, but no one expressed interest in using them.
All 500 photos were published on January 20th when Adam offered them to a group of persons (namely, the wire services) for purposes of further distribution or public display. The fact that the photos were never publicly displayed or distributed to members of the public is irrelevant to the publication status of the works.
As discussed above, GRUPH and GRPPH may be used to register photographs, but they cannot be used to register any other type of work. For example, the Office will not accept an application that combines photographs with text, illustrations, or other types of artwork.
Another key requirement is that the group must contain no more than 750 photographs. If an applicant exceeds this limit, the registration specialist may register the first 750 photos identified in the title list and remove the rest of the photos from the record, or alternatively, he or she may simply refuse registration.