Copyright Office Modernization Webinar: Electronic Recordation System Pilot Update

Copyright Office Modernization Webinar: Electronic Recordation System Pilot Update

Show Video

>> Ananda Mazumdar: We will now begin the U.S. Copyright Office's 11th Public Modernization webinar. I'm your host Anandashankar Mazumdar. During the program, attendees may submit questions using the Q&A panel access by clicking the Q&A icon at the bottom of the Zoom screen. We will answer questions after the presentations are complete.

However, we may not answer all of the submitted questions during the webinar. Please welcome the Register of Copyrights, Shira Perlmutter. >> Shira Perlmutter: Thank you all for joining us.

This is now my second public webinar as Register. And it's a pleasure to help educate the public regarding the Copyright Office's progress in modernizing and improving our services. This has been an eventful year. We have all faced and continue to face difficult circumstances that affect us personally, economically and professionally.

As the director of the Copyright Office, I have as a top priority ensuring that the office continues to function both safely and efficiently, and that members of the public are able to access the services we provide. As events evolve, we will continue to re-examine our procedures and practices to make sure that they meet these needs. I'm also dedicated to moving forward the Copyright Office's modernization initiative, through which we are reimagining the office to meet the challenges of not only today, but also tomorrow. Critical to the success of these efforts is an ongoing public dialogue. Webinars like this are one of the most important tools for keeping communication open with the various constituencies that rely on the Copyright Office's services.

Today, we will focus on one component of these services, the Recordation system. This is a system through which copyright owners file documents that pertain to their rights, such as a contract reflecting a change of ownership. The Copyright Office has embarked on its recordation modernization initiative to bring the system into the technological present and future. Earlier this year, the office launched a limited pilot program for an electronic recordation system intended to replace the current paper-based process. With that, let me hand it over to Denise Wofford, Director of the Office of Public Records and Repositories who will lead this conversation about the progress of the pilot program and its upcoming features.

>> Denise Wofford: Thank you, Shira, and welcome everyone. Perhaps I should say welcome back for everyone that participated in our previous webinar back on September the 26th in 2019. It's hard to believe that it's been over a year since we got together, but I'm excited that you're joining us today.

This webinar is part of our ongoing series to keep you informed on the U.S. Copyright Office's modernization efforts. I'm Denise Wofford, as you know, and I'm the director of the Public Records and Repository Office. In my position, I'm responsible for maintaining the official records of the US Copyright Office.

Included as part of the many record-related services the office overseas is a recording of transfers of copyright ownership. The Office has actually recorded transfers relating to copyright back to 1897, which give copyright owners the ability to enter into agreements that transfer their ownership of work to other parties, even if the work in question has never been registered with the Copyright Office through our registration process. Today is an opportunity to hear about the positive work we've been doing as well as the feedback we're getting on the new recordation pilot that went live in April of this year to modernize how we transfer ownership. Before I begin, I would like to introduce some key members of the recordation modernization effort. First, Sylvester Simpkins.

Sylvester is newly appointed and joined the recordation team this year. He comes with a broad background in copyright, having worked in the Records, Research and Certification section, as well as the Receipts, Analysis and Control division of the Copyright Office. Presenting today are three members of the Recordation Modernization team. We have KanKan Yu. KanKan is a management program analyst and she's also the product owner for the recordation system. Shawn Gallagher, a management program analyst in our division as well, is also the communications manager.

And then we have Nick Bartelt. Nick is an attorney advisor in the Copyright's General Counsel office. Nick has been a very key member of the recordation team, researching and developing the revised copyright regulations and rules to support our modernization effort.

So let's talk a little bit about why we want to modernize. Well, the good news is today the pilot that was launched back on April 27th of this year to a limited number of participants is proving to be very successful and confirms the new approach for electronic submissions. But prior to the pilot, recordation happens to be one of the few entirely paper-based processes left in the Copyright Office.

Handling paper is very labor intensive with many manual starts and stops needed to process documents submitted via paper. Under the paper workflow, the submitted documents go through intensive mail handling steps prior to getting delivered over to the Copyright Office. Next, we have staff and different Copyright divisions outside of the Recordation section, that sort and manually scan entire document packages to confirm receipt, the proper payment of those documents. And for those of you that have submitted paper documents to us before, you know that includes the document cover sheet, the supporting document, a wet signature, and a filing fee.

Once the paper documents are finally received in the recordation section, eligibility for recordation is established, and that required information is hand typed by recordation specialists into a data entry system to create the final public record. Recordation specialists screen incoming documents to verify that they meet the minimum requirements for recordation and contain correct information for the public record. If there are questions or missing elements, recordation specialists correspond with remitters to address any gaps. This process can always be hindered by the amount of correspondence recordation specialists must do to confirm the information that they're typing.

Added to this effort, titles of works are either manually typed or uploaded from electronic list spreadsheets into the public record. This process also hinders processing by needing to ensure that the titles are in the correct format. Often documents are submitted with multiple titles, which could be as many as hundreds of titles per document. Currently, the mail and paper submission process can take approximately eight to ten months for each document. While we have been working to get faster at processing, the paper submission process in and of itself is not a sufficient way to handle our work.

Especially when you account for the mailing handling delays, the additional correspondence often needed, and the extra time required to process large volumes of titles. So based on input from our outreach, roundtables and public studies, the notices of inquiries on this topic, it was clear that our old outdated paper process is not well suited to keep pace with the demands for faster timely processing needed by our customers. So next, let's talk about eight key steps to success. The Copyright Office has identified eight primary keys to success.

These concepts are not unique to the recordation pilot, but are being implemented across the whole entire Copyright Modernization effort. The Office sees these as important elements to a successful modernization. And you'll notice that they interact in meaning and also build upon each other. The first one is conducting outreach with real world users of the system. This includes outreach even before the system development starts, along with the continuous outreach during system development. Number two is making sure we emphasize a positive user experience in everything we do as we create the new systems.

This is from the screens, the instructions, the help tests, training, and also how we conduct outreach. The third one is focusing on building features that reflect customer needs and wants, not what we think you need or want. The fourth one is building cohesive visual experiences for all system users, both our internal users as well as our external users. Another key aspect to success is establishing regular communication channels, and continuing to build in new solutions incrementally with flexibility and scalability in mind. This allows the system to grow as demand grows and needs change. This approach follows the continuous process improvement model that is so important under a scale agile development method.

In addition, we will align the recordation modernization and the effort and the look and feel of the system with our long-term Copyright modernization strategies. This is very important, given the scope of the overall modernization which covers all areas of the Copyright Office. And finally, all of these success factors achieve our overall goal to modernize all aspects of the recordation workflow. The pilot feedback we're getting has been positive and continues to support these eight key principles to successful implementation.

So with that, I will turn the presentation over to KanKan Yu to discuss the program goals. >> KanKan Yu: Thank you, Denise. And good afternoon, everyone. Just a quick refresher of where we are in the modernization project. We are currently working in the pilot phase of this project. Our pilot system is currently limited to a subset of recordation features and available to a limited number of pilot participants.

What we have right now is a preview of what a modernized system could look like for recordation and collaborate with our pilot participants on ensuring that the system contains features that are valuable to our users. We are using this time to try out and test new ideas and concepts and working closely with our pilot participants to enhance and tune the features and also enhancing the user experience as they use the system. We have accomplished quite a bit since our last webinar on Recordation Modernization. We have hosted usability test sessions before the pilot launch. We received many helpful feedback and suggestions, which we incorporated into the initial release for the pilot launch. We launched the first release of the pilot system at the end of April 2020.

We have not stopped there. Since the initial launch, we have been supporting the pilot users as they begin to use the new system. And in parallel, our product team is also diligently working towards expanding that feature set in the pilot system and addressing the user feedback that we've received. To date, we deploy two additional feature releases to make the new functionality enhancements available to our pilot participants. And there will be more to come as we progress through the pilot program. As I mentioned in the earlier slide, our pilot program includes a subset of recordation features.

So here's what we have so far between the initial pilot release and the two additional releases we made between April and September. We introduced many self-service capabilities that allow users to manage their account and contact information, their organization information and structure, and deposit counts that they may have, which is just another form of payment that our users can use to pay for their submissions. And that's the short version of what a deposit account is.

In terms of submission, we have limited the pilot to accept basic 205 documents. And to give you a little more detail, when we first started with the pilot launch, we only accepted English only and non-redacted basic 205 documents through the pilot system. We later had two subsequent releases that help us expand the pilot system. The first one allowed us to process redacted basic 205 documents. And then the second release expanded the functionality to accepting English as well as non-English basic 205 documents.

We also built in an online payment and collection capability that allows our remitters to pay via credit cards, Automated Clearing House payments, which is commonly shortened to ACH payments, or they can pay using any deposit account that they may have set up through the pilot program. We also introduced digital certificates and digital number documents as part of the pilot program. Once the document submission is approved by the Copyright Office, the digital certificate and the number document will be available through the pilot system. The next three features address some of the most frequent inquiries or concerns that we receive about documents submitted to the office. The first one being, where is my document? We have added online status tracking capabilities that will let users know where their document is in the overall workflow. For example, we have a status that tells the user if their document is waiting for examination, and another status to indicate if an examiner has picked up their document.

Another question that we frequently get is correspondence. And the reasoning behind that is that there's a 45-day clock that starts once the office sends correspondence to the user requesting the user to take some sort of action. And once the 45-day clock is over and we don't get anything, the submission is discarded due to a scenario that we call a no reply. We've heard concerns through multiple channels that correspondences can sometimes be filtered by the user's organization's email policies, maybe their spam filters or there's other mechanisms that the Copyright Office is unaware of. So what we have done is we've centralized the correspondence through a messaging center that we implemented into the system.

And this not only ensures that our messages remain intact for delivery, but there's an added bonus that all of the messages are centralized in one place, and they are linked to the related documents submission. We also implemented notifications and alerts for key events. For example, if a document was approved for recordation, the user will get a notification in the system that will link them directly to the submission, so the user can grab their digital certificate and number document.

As part of the modernization effort, the user is now required to provide us all of the indexing information as part of the submission. Now, who is typing in this information, whether it be someone in the office or the user, we're all human, and we can sometimes make mistakes. So as part of the pilot program, we thought it was important to include correction capabilities for the user. What's really interesting about this is that the user can of course make corrections after the submission and throughout the examination process. But we added a new capability that allows users to make corrections to their indexing information even after the document has been recorded and available in the public record.

Now, this new capability is only available to those who have made their original submission using the pilot system. Last but not least, what good is putting all of this information into the system if you cannot find it sometime later, whether it be a few weeks or months? So what we've done is we've built in robust searching capabilities that allow you to search your work area, so you can find your current and historical submissions with ease. And this is just a list of what we have so far. And we plan to keep expanding this list as we move forward. Now I'd like to shift gears a little bit and echo what Denise mentioned earlier in our keys to success slide.

When we say things like modernize all aspects of recordation or build incrementally to expand features, being agile, and so forth, I think it's important to highlight the close collaboration between our product team and our office's Office of General Counsel to make all of this possible. So at this point, I'd like to turn it over to Nick Bartelt, who will talk about the special pilot program rules and its evolution over the course of this project so far. >> Nick Bartelt: Thanks, KanKan. In January, the office published a supplemental interim role that effective in February 24th established the regulatory framework for the pilot program. Under these regulations, the offices separately established special pilot program rules that govern electronic recordation submissions made through the system. These rules can be quickly updated and modified as new system features are developed and released.

At the time of the pilot launch in April, the special pilot program rules permitted recordation of most types of transfers and other documents pertaining to copyright that may be recorded under Section 205 of the Copyright Act. In July, the rules were amended to permit remitters to provide certain non-English indexing information for English language documents. Rules were subsequently revised twice to coincide with releases that expanded system functionality in August to permit recommendation of documents containing redactions, and in October to allow non-English language. With that, I'd like to introduce Shawn Gallagher, who will share some metrics about the pilot system. >> Shawn Gallagher: Thanks, Nick, much appreciated. So I think with any pilot program, once things have been underway for a number of months, as we have, the natural question is how's it going? So let's look at some numbers that we have to compare our current recordation pilot with the recordation paper process.

So on the left hand side, in the lighter blue, we can see some of our pilot numbers. So in the first five months, we recorded 152 documents comprising a little over 1,500 works. Whereas in the paper submission process, we recorded a little over 2,000 documents with over 64,000 works. So we're looking at maybe about 7% of the amount of work. And that's definitely due to the fact that we have a limited participation pilot at the moment. I know something else that many people are curious about is the amount of processing time.

And so we are looking at an order of weeks for processing time for the pilot right now, as opposed to an order of months for the paper processing recorded documents. But again, keep in mind that this is for the smaller subset of users that we're slowly introducing into the pilot. But we are happy with the way things are going at the moment. So let's talk a little bit more about the outreach that we've done and the feedback that we've received. So again, over the first number of months, we've set up a number of orientation webinars as people have joined the pilot, and supported their participation in the pilot with monthly webinars to collect feedback from them, and to provide updates that both KanKan and Nick spoke about as far as the system updates, as well as policy updates. We've conducted a number of live triage sessions to help people set up their organizations in the new pilot and to make sure that the system was functioning as they expected.

And we've also used feedback from pilot participants to push out a number of hot fixes to the system to make it function a little bit better. At the suggestion of some of our pilot users, we've created FAQ's for the pilot participants to be able to download and use at their discretion as they enter to the system, as well as a number of video tutorials and how to guides to help people navigate their way through the new system. In addition to that, we have a remitter portal survey that is posted on the pilot page that our pilot participants can use to provide additional feedback. And again, in the first five months, we've had 28 organizations begin participating in the pilot with about 78 individuals across those organizations. And over the next few months, we're looking at adding an additional 33 organizations comprised of 84 invitees. And down at the lower part of the screen, we do have some feedback from some of our pilot users.

And we're happy to say that people seem to be having a positive experience. They've submitted their first filings, and they're pleased with the program so far. So we're glad to hear some of that feedback. To talk a little bit more about where we'll be heading in the coming months and years, I'd like to hand it back off to KanKan.

>> KanKan Yu: Thanks, Shawn. So a quick preview of what we have coming up. We still have a number of pilot participants in organizations that we plan on rolling the pilot system out to, and that will be happening over multiple waves, so we will still continue to support that. The pilot period is a way for us to test concepts and work really closely with our pilot participants.

And we are getting a lot of great constructive feedback on what is liked and what we could be enhancing or tweaking. So our product team will be spending a bit of time addressing that kind of feedback. Today, our system only takes in basic 205 documents. So our next big activity coming up is to start working on the design and the development for notices of terminations. The information that we have collected from our past user experience activities have been extremely useful in our design and development processes so far. And this includes activities such as user research and usability testing.

So we plan on continuing those efforts as we move forward. As you know, we are not the only modernization project taking place right now. So we're working closely with the other projects to make sure that we are all cohesively aligned to make up the overall enterprise copyright system, or known as ECS.

So let's zoom out and take a look at this longer term. As part of the pilot program, we'll be having regular releases to help grow the system to what we call the full release, which is the version that will be available to the public in the future. The goal will be to provide cohesive experiences to a full suite of recordation products and services.

Reduce the recordation processing time, but still produce quality public records, and continue to be flexible, scalable and adaptable to all of our stakeholder needs, and how they may evolve over time. So we are early in the pilot program, and we have more collaboration opportunities ahead. If you're interested in working with us, please jot this email down. It is This email is a great way to stay connected for news and announcements regarding the pilot application. Let us know through this email if you want to be considered for future research and usability testing opportunities.

And if you have colleagues or peers that are interested in collaborating with us, please feel free to share this email address with them. Ananda, back to you. >> Ananda Mazumdar: Thank you, KanKan. We will now begin the question and answer portion of the program.

Attendees can submit questions using the Q&A panel accessed by clicking the Q&A icon at the bottom of the Zoom screen. First question is for Shawn. Is there a go live date for the full public release? >> KanKan Yu: Ananda, I can take that. This is KanKan. So as of right now the office does not have a set date for the full public release. But we will be planning on rolling out more of the pilot in phases over time.

We'll be gathering feedback from over 80 participants in 40 organizations. And the idea right now is that the pilot program will just grow to that full feature set that will be made available to the public in the future. >> Ananda Mazumdar: Thank you, KanKan. Next question is for Shawn.

How do we get invited to the next group of pilot participants? >> Shawn Gallagher: Thanks, Ananda. And I think KanKan covered this on our last slide again. But the best way to get in touch with us to let us know that you're interested in participating in the pilot is to send us an email to But also, if you do want to contact the office through our website or through the Public Information Office and express your interest about participating in the recordation pilot, they can also route your request over to us in case you don't have time to jot down this email address.

>> Ananda Mazumdar: Thank you, Shawn. Next question is for KanKan again. With the new non-English information option for certain fields, does that include use of non-English characters, either for languages in other scripts or for languages in Latin script with letters English doesn't have, such as the [inaudible]? >> KanKan Yu: So that's a great question. For the non-English documents in the system, we do plan on taking in non-Latin characters, whether that's Chinese or Cyrillic.

But there is going to be a translation or a transliteration requirement. Now what's going to be interesting about that is that when it comes to indexing, we are still connected to our existing public record system. And the translation and the transliteration will have to be in a Latin-based language for that to be picked up by our existing system. Nick, do you have anything to add about the translation literation portion from a policy perspective? >> Nick Bartelt: I think you've covered it well, KanKan. I'll just add that this was something that we had announced in the interim role that's leading up to the pilot program.

So yeah, we would require for a title that's submitted outside of the characters, the non-Latin character set, that it be accompanied either by a translation and/or a transliteration, depending on what the remitter prefers to provide in that instance. >> Ananda Mazumdar: Thank you, KanKan and Nick -- Nick Bartelt, this question is for you. When you mentioned working on notices of termination, is that also under section 205 of the Copyright Act or some other statutory provision? >> Nick Bartelt: Notices are covered under two other sections.

So Section 205 of Title 17 relates to transfers of copyright and other documents pertaining to copyright. But notices of termination are covered by Section 203 for grants made after 1978. And there are two other statutory sections in Sections 304C, and 304 D that cover some earlier pre-'78 works. >> Ananda Mazumdar: This next question is for Denise Wofford. If you are not participating in the pilot, but are otherwise sending documents to be recorded with the Copyright Office, are they being recorded? >> Denise Wofford: Okay, Ananda, thank you for that question. Yes, actually, we are recording documents that are sent in in paper format.

Just to clarify, I know there's been some delays with the COVID-19 pandemic in terms of processing these documents. But we do have a limited staff back on site at the Copyright Office, and they're going through those documents as quickly as possible. So yes, those processes are still continuing.

I encourage everyone to please be sure to not submit separately documents electronically as well as in paper copy. All that does is it slows down the process and it causes a lot of confusion. So if you're participating in the pilot, please use the pilot to submit your documents. If you're not participating in the pilot, you can still send them in through paper format in the office and we will continue to process them.

I also want to mention that we have set up some special support accounts during COVID for special handling and notices of termination. So those email accounts are available to you. There's information on the copyright website under the COVID-19 section that talks about how you can use those services to send those particular ones in electronically.

>> Ananda Mazumdar: Thank you, Denise. The next question for KanKan Yu. Is there any estimate when mortgages of copyright assignments et cetera can be filed online without a special handling fee? >> KanKan Yu: So right now any 205 documents that's submitted as part of the pilot program, there's an option of whether you want to submit that with or without special handling.

So if you submit it without special handling it will be handled in the order that it was received. And if you wish to apply special handling which will subsequently charge a special handling fee, then it will be filed within the timeframes designated for special handling. >> Ananda Mazumdar: Thank you, KanKan. Another question for you. If documents are submitted electronically, will they be reviewed more quickly than physical submissions sent to the office? >> KanKan Yu: So the documents submitted electronically through the pilot system will be reviewed as they are received by the recordation staff, unless you have that special handling designation to it.

The paper documents that we receive in the office follow a completely different workflow. Those two systems are separate. The only thing, as Denise had mentioned, is just make sure that you are not submitting both electronically and in paper form. The special pilot program rules generally prohibits dual submissions and it specifically states that no submissions may be made both electronically and in paper form, unless approved by the Copyright Office. >> Ananda Mazumdar: Thank you, KanKan.

Another question for you. Once the recordation has been processed, will we then be able to access a digital certificate of recordation from the account? Or do we have to still wait for a mailed copy of the certificate to complete the filing project? >> KanKan Yu: Great question. So if this is coming in through the pilot program, the digital certificate and the digital copy of -- the digital version of the numbered document is going to be in the pilot system waiting for you as soon as it's approved.

So you don't have to wait for the mail-in form. It's going to be available to you in a digital format. >> Ananda Mazumdar: Thank you, KanKan. For Nick Bartelt, will third party companies still be allowed to obtain in process filing reports as in the past? >> Nick Bartelt: Sorry, I was muted there.

I don't believe that's currently part of the pilot functionality. But maybe that's some feature we can take under consideration. But if it's something that's been produced into the public record, then yeah, it would be part of any search report that someone would seek to obtain. >> Ananda Mazumdar: Next question for KanKan.

Is the current electronic filing system part of the pilot? I've only heard you mention pilot as opposed to paper filing? >> KanKan Yu: Yes. So when we mention electronic filing and the pilot system, they're one and the same. Before the pilot, we only had a paper-based submission. So anything about electronic filing or the pilot system or the pilot program, they're going to be synonymous. >> Ananda Mazumdar: Thank you, KanKan, and this question is also for you. Will there be templates for the cover sheet, or will a cover letter still be needed? >> KanKan Yu: So all of the documents that are required for electronic filing through the pilot system is going to be self-contained in the pilot system itself.

So if there's a document that you need, it can be downloaded through the pilot system. As I mentioned earlier, the pilot system and the paper-based submission, they're two separate workflows. So you shouldn't be using any of the previous cover sheets, whether it's document cover sheet or the notice of terminations cover sheet. Do not use that as part of the electronic submission through the pilot program.

That belongs with the paper submission process only. >> Ananda Mazumdar: Thank you, KanKan. Question for Nick. How is the change from wet signatures to digital signatures on documents and document cover sheets being handled? >> Nick Bartelt: Sure. So one of the regulatory changes that the office implemented in advance of the pilot was to change how we defined what constitutes the actual signature of the person who executed the document for both paper and electronic submissions.

Now, the Office will accept documents that contain any legally binding signature, which includes an electronic signature as defined by the E-Sign Act. In addition, because all documents submitted electronically through the pilot system are considered to be copies, the uploaded document must be accompanied by either a sworn or official certification, similar to the process we have in place for submitting a paper copy using the document cover sheet. And the certifications can also be signed electronically, whether you're using the pilot system or the document cover sheet. >> Ananda Mazumdar: Thank you, Nick.

Question for KanKan. Does the pilot program include only enterprise level users, or are general members of the public also included? >> KanKan Yu: The pilot program is looking at a sampling across all the different types of users that have had filed for record -- that has filed documents with the Copyright Office so far. And that includes both your power users or enterprise level users, but also our single users or solo users. And if anyone's interested in participating in the pilot, I would really recommend emailing us at This is a great way to be considered into the pilot.

Shawn, do you have anything else you'd like to add? >> Shawn Gallagher: I don't, but I do see that people are already sending us emails expressing their interest. So thank you. >> Ananda Mazumdar: All right, KanKan and Shawn.

Thank you very much for that. That will conclude today's webinar. When you sign out of the session, we encourage you to take part in a brief survey regarding your experience. We use this to improve our webinar program. So your feedback is greatly appreciated. Thank you for your participation today.

And please join us for the next webinar.

2021-01-08 10:35

Show Video

Other news