Thursday, July 24, 2008

Filing with the Electronic Copyright Office

I've been filing copyright registrations on my stuff for decades now. At first there was the problem of tracking down a form (TX?) from the post office. And then things got better when you could download the forms as PDF's from a web site. Still later, you could fill the PDF's in electronically and print them out.

Now they've advanced to the status of filing via a web form. It works. More or less.

When my copyright registration form arrived for Emperor Dad, I realized that I now had two more books to register. I went to copyright.gov to track down a fresh PDF and stumbled across the link to eco.copyright.gov. The advantage is a cheaper filing fee and less chance for transcription errors, so I gave it a try.

Of course, you have to register an account and their list of password rules is quite long. I just opted to use my PasswordWallet application to generate a random one.

The program is also a little kludgy. I liked the way they said it was written for Internet Explorer but most other browsers ought to work. I use Safari, so I advanced cautiously. At least they warned me that I had to turn pop-ups back on before starting. It seems they use pop-ups for some kind of computation. They flash on the screen and then vanish when they're done.

The company that did the web-application for them did a B-minus job. Everything worked, but I had do use some work-arounds.

You step through quite a number of pages to fill out what is effectively a one-page form. Be warned -- the form mutates under you as you fill it out. Once it knows it's not a work for hire, for example, it re-writes the page to adapt. I got in the habit of looking at the status bar after filling in each field. If I didn't, the page might flash under me and erase what I'd just filled in. If you like good design practices, this site will drive you crazy. It's often not obvious which button to press.

If you are familiar with the old copyright form, it's basically the same information, although it seems like more because you have to visit a lot of pages that you could just skip over on the paper form.

Then, the web-application bumps you over to a whole 'nother site, pay.gov, to take your credit card information. Perhaps it's just Safari, but the return back to eco.copyright.gov then fails after you pay. It even gives you a little warning explaining that you have to close your web-browser all the way down and restart it before returning. Okay. At least, after that you can click on your case number and get back to the place where you print out the shipping form that has to go with the books you mail in to the Library of Congress.

So. It's a kludge, but I've seen worse. It's cheaper than filling out the paper form, and there's no show-stoppers. I have little hope it'll get fixed any time soon, but it's not like I have to fight the forms every day.

So, in a few months, I'll get another pretty little copyright form for my filing cabinet. I like those.

No comments: