Registration: One Work, One Author, Lots of Rules


The Single Application Form

The least expensive registration avenue offered by the Copyright Office is the Single Application form. For $45 ($20less than the Standard Application), you can submit your registration. However, the Copyright Office views this as a special discount and limits the use of Single Application.

As the name suggests, you may only submit one work and that one work must be by one author who is also the sole owner of the copyright in the work. So, for example, you sat down and wrote a short story entirely on your own and not based on anyone else’s work. Or you made a graphic design that is 100% your work. Unpublished works can be registered in groups of up to ten, but the Single Application may be used for published or unpublished works. But be careful! The Copyright Office is strict about its rules and this form has a number of restrictions. For instance:

  • If you had a joint author or the  work was made for hire, you may not use this form.
  • If you are the sole author but sold or gave away some or all the copyright ownership, you may not use this form.
  • If the work incorporates someone else’s prior work or is adapted from another author’s work, such as a screenplay based on someone else’s novel, you may not use this form because some aspects of the work are not your authorship. In fact, the Limit of Claim restrictions with this form are so potentially confusing, that we recommend using the Standard Application in these circumstances.
  • Audiovisual works can rarely be registered using the Single Application because they are often works for hire but almost always involve creative contributions from more than one author. The only way you can likely use this form for an A/V work is to register a selfie video—no other actors or voices, no one else’s music or sets, and so on.
  • Likewise with music, if you record a performance of someone else’s composition, you may not use the Single Application because you must Limit the Claim to indicate that the composition belongs to another author/copyright owner

One Work Means One Work

Be sure the deposit copy you send in contains only the ONE WORK being registered. If the deposit contains extra material, even for promotional purposes, the Office may reject the application on the basis that you have submitted more than a single work. For instance…

If you have a group of short stories or poems that you consider a single book, the Copyright Office will not register that through the Single Application. Depending on the circumstances, these could be registered as a group of unpublished works with a group application, or through the Standard Application as either a single unit of publication or a collective work. Those all involve other requirements, but the point here is even if you consider it a single book, the Copyright Office won’t let you use the Single Application.

If you include illustrations or photos, or even long quotations, you shouldn’t use the Single Application. For instance, if the Copyright Office decides a quote is long enough to be considered someone else’s authorship, it may refuse registration and tell you to file again using the Standard Application.

The Single Application is a better deal on the fee if you qualify. Just be sure that you really do qualify. Remember the fees are non-refundable and the Copyright Office won’t credit fees paid toward a new application – you’ll have to start all over again.

If you qualify for a Single Application and want RightsClick to file that for you, click the button below.