Registering your yearbook’s copyright

The copyright office’s instructions on filling in the eCOform are very good and available online. This link also shows up in your home page once you create a login oncopyright.gov’s eCO site. Refer to that document, and the prompts in the formitself, for the registration process; this document will attempt to answerquestions along the way that might be too cloaked in “legal-ese” for quickresolution.

The goal of this process is to register the yearbook as acompilation work owned by the unincorporated association of editors. A“compilation work” is a copyright registration that protects works broughttogether into one new work; in the case of a yearbook, the registrationprotects the book as an assembled work, while the individual contributors owntheir photographs, articles, etc. An “unincorporated association” is a group ofpeople working together to accomplish a goal. In this case, the current editorsof the yearbook in any given year will be the “unincorporated association” thatholds the copyrights for all the yearbooks produced thereafter.

A few quick steps up front:

  1. Pick a name for the unincorporated association of yearbookeditors. Something simple and memorable will be easiest. There are no points fororiginality here — if your yearbook was named The Annual, “The Annual Editors”would be fine.
  2. Set up an e-mail address for the unincorporated association.Big picture you might want lots of other things, like a bank account, but atleast start with a way people can talk to the organization. The Editor(s) inChief should have that password; the adviser probably shouldn’t. Each year,the editors should pass access down to the next set of editors.
  3. Decide if you’re registering the book before publication orafter publication. If registering before publication, register the work as a literary work; you will need to upload acopy of the yearbook electronically. (The maximum file size is actually set bythe speed of the connection you have, because you have to upload each file inone session; click here for details.) If registering after publication, register the work as a single serial issue; you will need tomail two copies of the physical book to the copyright office.
  4. Before filling out the forms, contact the SPLC to ask aboutlaws specific to your state. Each state has its own law covering unincorporatedassociations. Give us a few days to look up the law in your state and make surethis process is right for you.
  5. Have a credit or debit card you can use to pay for theregistration fee. If all else fails, see if you’re allowed to use yearbookfunds to purchase a prepaid debit card, but in this day and age, presumably thepublication has some way of paying electronically.

In following the Copyright Office’s instructions, here’ssome additional information to know:

  1. If registering as a literarywork, the series title is the name of the yearbook, and the title of theworkis the theme of that particularyearbook. For example, if the yearbookis named The Annual, then the seriestitle is “The Annual” and the serial title is this year’s theme, “EnchantmentUnder the Sea.”
  2. If registering as a singleserial issue, the title of the work is the yearbook name, the publicationfrequency is “annually,” and the issue date is the year the yearbook isactually distributed.
  3. If registering after publication as a single serial issue, date of first publication is the date that thebook was actually delivered into the hands of someone other than a yearbookstaff member.
  4. The organization name is the name of that unincorporatedassociation you picked earlier; the name that represents the editorial board.
  5. Under “authors,” don’t fill in the name of any staffmembers! Names you put here are transferringownership of the work to the unincorporated association. The contract theSPLC provides doesn’t do that—it only gives the association a license.
  6. For transfer statement, you want the option: By writtenagreement(s) with individual contributors not named in the application/certificate.
  7. For material excluded, check “text,” “artwork,” and“photographs.” The editors aren’t claiming to own these; they’re just licensingthem, so they should be excluded from the claim. For material included, check“editing,” “compilation.”
  8. Under rights and permissions information, put the name ofthe unincorporated association and the association’s e-mail address; use thestreet address and phone number of the school’s yearbook office.
  9. For correspondent, list the current editor in chief’spersonal information.
  10. Don’t get special handling. It’s expensive and if youhaven’t published the book or just published it recently, you probably aren’tin a hurry yet.
  11. If registering as a singleserial issue, don’t forget to print out a mailing label.