What If the Copyright Office Rejects a Registration Application?

It doesn’t happen very often, but sometimes the Copyright Office will reject a registration application for a particular work (Title). In most cases, when the registration specialist detects an administrative error, he or she will usually email the applicant directly and try to clear up any confusion. If you submitted a registration through RightsClick, and receive such a message, you may forward it to our Administrators for assistance, if needed.

On occasion, the Copyright Office will refuse a registration on the basis that the work submitted lacks sufficient “originality” for copyright protection. Although U.S. copyright doctrine establishes a low threshold for “originality (and this can be a subjective analysis), it can still happen. For instance, one of the most common types of art that is rejected for lack of originality is applied art, such as jewelry, where the function of the item dictates certain elements of its design. If you want to review previous decisions, the Copyright Office maintains a database of Review Board Opinions.

Rejections can be appealed through a Request for Reconsideration, although appeals are a pricey option–$350 for a first appeal, and $700 for a second appeal – and the success rate is low. More information about the appeal process, including instructions, is available in Copyright Office Circular 20.

At RightsClick, we endeavor to keep our users apprised of the status of registration applications submitted through our software and to update Titles with Registration Numbers once they are issued by the Copyright Office. However, if an application is rejected by the Copyright Office (e.g., for lack of originality), that communication from the Copyright Office goes directly and only to you. We do not have any way of knowing whether or why an application was rejected.

About the Use of Artificial Intelligence

A new consideration with regard to copyright registration is the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to produce a creative work. You may have read about the case Thaler v. Perlmutter, which affirms that the Copyright Office will reject a work produced wholly by a generative AI. But that leaves open the question of how much human involvement there must be in the creative process, alongside AI-created elements, in order to be copyrightable and registered by the Copyright Office?

The Copyright Office has issued guidelines for disclaiming the use of AI in works submitted for registration, and our friends at Copyright Alliance provide a good overview of this guidance in a blog post. If all this makes you nervous, we can offer you the solace that according to a Supreme Court decision, so long as you make a good-faith effort to provide accurate information on your application, then even if it turns out you were incorrect, you won’t get into any trouble for guessing wrong.