Copyright Office Basics
Table of Contents
What Is Copyright
Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United
States (title 17, U. S. Code) to the authors of “original works
of authorship,” including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic,
and certain other intellectual works. This protection is available
to both published and unpublished works. Section
106 of the 1976
Copyright Act generally gives the owner of copyright the exclusive
right to do and to authorize others to do the following:
To reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords;
derivative works based upon the work;
To distribute copies
or phonorecords of the work to the public by sale or other transfer
of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;
the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and
choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual
To display the work publicly, in the case of literary,
musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial,
graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of
a motion picture or other audiovisual work; and
In the case
of sound recordings*, to perform the work publicly by means of
a digital audio transmission.
In addition, certain authors of works of visual art have the rights
of attribution and integrity as described in section 106A of
the 1976 Copyright Act. For further information, request Circular
40, Copyright Registration for Works of the Visual Arts.
It is illegal for anyone to violate any of the rights provided by
the copyright law to the owner of copyright. These rights, however,
are not unlimited in scope. Sections 107 through 121 of the 1976 Copyright
Act establish limitations on these rights. In some cases, these limitations
are specified exemptions from copyright liability. One major limitation
is the doctrine of “fair use,” which is given a statutory
basis in section 107 of the 1976 Copyright Act. In other instances,
the limitation takes the form of a “compulsory license” under
which certain limited uses of copyrighted works are permitted upon
payment of specified royalties and compliance with statutory conditions.
For further information about the limitations of any of these rights,
consult the copyright law or write to the Copyright Office.
*Note: Sound recordings are defined in the law as “works that
result from the fixation of a series of musical, spoken, or other sounds,
but not including the sounds accompanying a motion picture or other
audiovisual work.” Common examples include recordings of music,
drama, or lectures. A sound recording is not the same as a phonorecord.
A phonorecord is the physical object in which works of authorship are
embodied. The word “phonorecord” includes cassette tapes,
CDs, LPs, 45 r.p.m. disks, as well as other formats.
Copyright protection subsists from the time the work is created in
fixed form. The copyright in the work of authorship immediately becomes
the property of the author who created the work. Only the author or
those deriving their rights through the author can rightfully claim
In the case of works made for hire, the employer and not the employee
is considered to be the author. Section 101 of the copyright law defines
a “work made for hire” as:
- work prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her
- work specially ordered or commissioned for use as:
- a contribution to a collective work
- a part of a motion picture or other audiovisual work
- a translation
- a supplementary work
- a compilation
- an instructional text
- a test
- answer material for a test
- an atlas
if the parties expressly agree in a written instrument signed by
them that the work shall be considered a work made for hire.
The authors of a joint work are co-owners of the copyright in the
work, unless there is an agreement to the contrary.
Copyright in each separate contribution to a periodical or other
collective work is distinct from copyright in the collective work
as a whole and vests initially with the author of the contribution.
Two General Principles
Mere ownership of a book, manuscript, painting, or any other copy
or phonorecord does not give the possessor the copyright. The law
provides that transfer of ownership of any material object that embodies
a protected work does not of itself convey any rights in the copyright.
Minors may claim copyright, but state laws may regulate the business
dealings involving copyrights owned by minors. For information on relevant
state laws, consult an attorney.
Copyright protection is available for all unpublished works, regardless of
the nationality or domicile of the author.
Published works are eligible for copyright protection in the United
States if any one of the following conditions is met:
- On the date of first publication, one or more of the authors is
a national or domiciliary of the United States, or is a national,
domiciliary, or sovereign authority of a treaty party,* or is a
stateless person wherever that person may be domiciled; or
|* A treaty party is a country or intergovernmental
organization other than the United States that is a party to an
- The work is first published in the United States or in a foreign
nation that, on the date of first publication, is a treaty party.
For purposes of this condition, a work that is published in the United
States or a treaty party within 30 days after publication in a foreign
nation that is not a treaty party shall be considered to be first
published in the United States or such treaty party, as the case
may be; or
- The work is a sound recording that was first fixed in a treaty party;
- The work is a pictorial, graphic, or sculptural work that is incorporated
in a building or other structure, or an architectural work that is
embodied in a building and the building or structure is located in
the United States or a treaty party; or
- The work is first published by the United Nations or any of its
specialized agencies, or by the Organization of American States;
- The work is a foreign work that was in the public domain in the
United States prior to 1996 and its copyright was restored under
the Uruguay Round Agreements Act (URAA). Request Circular
38b, Highlights of Copyright Amendments Contained in the
Uruguay Round Agreements Act (URAA-GATT), for further information.
- The work comes within the scope of a Presidential proclamation.
What Works Are Protected?
Copyright protects “original works of authorship” that
are fixed in a tangible form of expression. The fixation need not
be directly perceptible so long as it may be communicated with the
aid of a machine or device. Copyrightable works include the following
- literary works;
- musical works, including any accompanying words
- dramatic works, including any accompanying music
- pantomimes and choreographic works
- pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
- motion pictures and other audiovisual works
- sound recordings
- architectural works
These categories should be viewed broadly. For example, computer
programs and most “compilations” may be registered as “literary
works”; maps and architectural plans may be registered as “pictorial,
graphic, and sculptural works.”
What Is Not Protected by Copyright?
Several categories of material are generally not eligible for federal copyright
protection. These include among others:
- Works that have not been fixed in a tangible form of expression
(for example, choreographic works that have not been notated or
recorded, or improvisational speeches or performances that have
not been written or recorded)
- Titles, names, short phrases, and slogans; familiar symbols or designs;
mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering, or coloring;
mere listings of ingredients or contents
- Ideas, procedures, methods, systems, processes, concepts, principles,
discoveries, or devices, as distinguished from a description, explanation,
- Works consisting entirely of information that is common property
and containing no original authorship (for example: standard calendars,
height and weight charts, tape measures and rulers, and lists or
tables taken from public documents or other common sources)
How to Secure a Copyright
Copyright Secured Automatically upon Creation
The way in which copyright protection is secured is frequently misunderstood.
No publication or registration or other action in the Copyright Office
is required to secure copyright. (See following note.)
There are, however, certain definite advantages to registration.
Copyright is secured automatically when the work is created, and
a work is “created” when it is fixed in a copy or phonorecord
for the first time. “Copies” are material objects from
which a work can be read or visually perceived either directly or with
the aid of a machine or device, such as books, manuscripts, sheet music,
film, videotape, or microfilm. “Phonorecords” are material
objects embodying fixations of sounds (excluding, by statutory definition,
motion picture soundtracks), such as cassette tapes, CDs, or LPs. Thus,
for example, a song (the “work”) can be fixed in sheet
music (“copies”) or in phonograph disks (“phonorecords”),
or both. If a work is prepared over a period of time, the part of the
work that is fixed on a particular date constitutes the created work
as of that date.
Publication is no longer the key to obtaining federal copyright as it was
under the Copyright Act of 1909. However, publication remains important to
The 1976 Copyright Act defines publication as follows:
“Publication” is the distribution of copies or phonorecords
of a work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or
by rental, lease, or lending. The offering to distribute copies or
phonorecords to a group of persons for purposes of further distribution,
public performance, or public display constitutes publication. A
public performance or display of a work does not of itself constitute
NOTE: Before 1978, federal
copyright was generally secured by the act of publication with
notice of copyright, assuming compliance with all other relevant
statutory conditions. U. S. works in the public domain on January
1, 1978, (for example, works published without satisfying all
conditions for securing federal copyright under the Copyright
Act of 1909) remain in the public domain under the 1976 Copyright
Certain foreign works originally published without notice
had their copyrights restored under the Uruguay Round Agreements
Act (URAA). Request Circular 38b and
see the “Notice of
Copyright”section of this publication for further information.
copyright could also be secured before 1978 by the act of registration
in the case of certain unpublished works and works eligible for
ad interim copyright. The 1976 Copyright Act automatically extends
to full term (section 304 sets the term) copyright for all works,
including those subject to ad interim copyright if ad interim
registration has been made on or before June 30, 1978.
A further discussion of the definition of “publication” can
be found in the legislative history of the 1976 Copyright
Act. The legislative reports define “to the public” as
distribution to persons under no explicit or implicit restrictions
with respect to disclosure of the contents. The reports
state that the definition makes it clear that the sale of
phonorecords constitutes publication of the underlying
work, for example, the musical, dramatic, or literary work
embodied in a phonorecord. The reports also state that
it is clear that any form of dissemination in which the
material object does not change hands, for example, performances
or displays on television, is not a publication no matter
how many people are exposed to the work. However, when
copies or phonorecords are offered for sale or lease to
a group of wholesalers, broadcasters, or motion picture
theaters, publication does take place if the purpose is
further distribution, public performance, or public display.
Publication is an important concept in the copyright law for several reasons:
Works that are published in the United States are subject to mandatory
deposit with the Library of Congress. See discussion on “Mandatory
Deposit for Works Published in the United States.”
Publication of a work can affect the limitations on the exclusive rights
of the copyright owner that are set forth in sections 107 through 121
of the law.
The year of publication may determine the duration of copyright protection
for anonymous and pseudonymous works (when the author's identity is not
revealed in the records of the Copyright Office) and for works made for
Deposit requirements for registration of published works differ
from those for registration of unpublished works. See discussion
When a work is published, it may bear a notice of copyright to identify
the year of publication and the name of the copyright owner and to inform
the public that the work is protected by copyright. Copies of works published
before March 1, 1989, must bear the notice or risk loss of copyright protection.
See discussion on “Notice of Copyright” below.
The use of a copyright notice is no longer required under
U.S. law, although it is often beneficial. Because prior
law did contain such a requirement, however, the use of
notice is still relevant to the copyright status of older
Notice was required under the 1976 Copyright Act. This
requirement was eliminated when the United States adhered
to the Berne Convention, effective March 1, 1989. Although
works published without notice before that date could have
entered the public domain in the United States, the Uruguay Round
Agreements Act (URAA) restores copyright in certain foreign
works originally published without notice. For further
information about copyright amendments in the URAA, request Circular
The Copyright Office does not take a position on whether copies of works
first published with notice before March 1, 1989, which are distributed on
or after March 1, 1989, must bear the copyright notice.
Use of the notice may be important because it informs
the public that the work is protected by copyright, identifies
the copyright owner, and shows the year of first publication.
Furthermore, in the event that a work is infringed, if
a proper notice of copyright appears on the published copy
or copies to which a defendant in a copyright infringement
suit had access, then no weight shall be given to such
a defendant’s interposition of a defense based on
innocent infringement in mitigation of actual or statutory
damages, except as provided in section
of the copyright law. Innocent infringement occurs when the infringer
did not realize that the work was protected.
The use of the copyright notice is the responsibility of the copyright owner
and does not require advance permission from, or registration with, the Copyright
The notice for visually perceptible copies should contain all the following
- The symbol © (the letter C in a circle), or the word “Copyright,” or
the abbreviation “Copr.”; and
- The year of first publication of the work. In the case
of compilations or derivative works incorporating previously
published material, the year date of first publication
of the compilation or derivative work is sufficient. The
year date may be omitted where a pictorial, graphic, or
sculptural work, with accompanying textual matter, if any,
is reproduced in or on greeting cards, postcards, stationery,
jewelry, dolls, toys, or any useful article; and
- The name of the owner of copyright in the work,
or an abbreviation by which the name can be recognized,
or a generally known alternative designation of the owner.
Example: © 2006 John Doe
The “C in a circle” notice is used only on “visually
perceptible copies.” Certain kinds of works—for
example, musical, dramatic, and literary works—may
be fixed not in “copies” but by means of sound
in an audio recording. Since audio recordings such as audio
tapes and phonograph disks are “phonorecords” and
not “copies,” the “C in a circle” notice
is not used to indicate protection of the underlying musical,
dramatic, or literary work that is recorded.
The notice for phonorecords embodying a sound recording should contain all
the following three elements:
- The symbol (the letter P in a circle); and
- The year of first publication of the sound recording;
- The name of the owner of copyright in the sound
recording, or an abbreviation by which the name can be recognized, or a generally
known alternative designation of the owner. If the producer of the sound recording
is named on the phonorecord label or container and if no other name appears
in conjunction with the notice, the producer's name shall be considered a
part of the notice.
2006 A.B.C. Records Inc.
|NOTE: Since questions may arise from the use of variant forms
of the notice, you may wish to seek legal advice before using any form
of the notice other than those given here.
The copyright notice should be affixed to copies or phonorecords
in such a way as to “give reasonable notice of the
claim of copyright.” The three elements of the notice
should ordinarily appear together on the copies or phonorecords
or on the phonorecord label or container. The Copyright
Office has issued regulations concerning the form and position
of the copyright notice in the Code of Federal Regulations (37
CFR Section 201.20). For more information, request Circular
3, Copyright Notice.
Works by the U. S. government are not eligible for U.
S. copyright protection. For works published on and after
March 1, 1989, the previous notice requirement for works
consisting primarily of one or more U. S. government works
has been eliminated. However, use of a notice on such a
work will defeat a claim of innocent infringement as previously
described provided the notice also includes a statement
that identifies either those portions of the work in which
copyright is claimed or those portions that constitute
U. S. government material.
Example: © 2006 Jane Brown. Copyright claimed in Chapters 7—10,
exclusive of U.S. government maps
Copies of works published before March 1, 1989, that consist
primarily of one or more works of the U. S. government
should have a notice and the identifying statement.
The author or copyright owner may wish to place a copyright notice on any
unpublished copies or phonorecords that leave his or her control.
Example: Unpublished work © 2006 Jane Doe
The 1976 Copyright Act attempted to ameliorate the strict
consequences of failure to include notice under prior law.
It contained provisions that set out specific corrective
steps to cure omissions or certain errors in notice. Under
these provisions, an applicant had 5 years after publication
to cure omission of notice or certain errors. Although
these provisions are technically still in the law, their
impact has been limited by the amendment making notice
optional for all works published on and after March 1,
1989.. For further information,
How Long Copyright Protection Endures
Works Originally Created on or after January 1, 1978
A work that was created (fixed in tangible form for the
first time) on or after January 1, 1978, is automatically
protected from the moment of its creation and is ordinarily
given a term enduring for the author’s life plus
an additional 70 years after the author’s death.
In the case of “a joint work prepared by two or more
authors who did not work for hire,” the term lasts
for 70 years after the last surviving author’s death.
For works made for hire, and for anonymous and pseudonymous
works (unless the author’s identity is revealed in
Copyright Office records), the duration of copyright will
be 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation,
whichever is shorter.
Works Originally Created before January 1, 1978, But Not Published or Registered
by That Date
These works have been automatically brought under the
statute and are now given federal copyright protection.
The duration of copyright in these works is generally computed
in the same way as for works created on or after January
1, 1978: the life-plus-70 or 95/120-year terms apply to
them as well. The law provides that in no case would the
term of copyright for works in this category expire before
December 31, 2002, and for works published on or before
December 31, 2002, the term of copyright will not expire
before December 31, 2047.
Works Originally Created and Published or Registered before January 1, 1978
Under the law in effect before 1978, copyright was secured
either on the date a work was published with a copyright
notice or on the date of registration if the work was registered
in unpublished form. In either case, the copyright endured
for a first term of 28 years from the date it was secured.
During the last (28th) year of the first term, the copyright
was eligible for renewal. The Copyright Act of 1976 extended
the renewal term from 28 to 47 years for copyrights that
were subsisting on January 1, 1978, or for pre-1978 copyrights
restored under the Uruguay Round Agreements Act (URAA),
making these works eligible for a total term of protection
of 75 years. Public
Law 105-298, enacted on October 27, 1998, further extended the renewal
term of copyrights still subsisting on that date by an additional 20 years,
providing for a renewal term of 67 years and a total term of protection of
Public Law 102-307, enacted on June 26, 1992, amended
the 1976 Copyright Act to provide for automatic renewal
of the term of copyrights secured between January 1, 1964,
and December 31, 1977. Although the renewal term is automatically
provided, the Copyright Office does not issue a renewal
certificate for these works unless a renewal application
and fee are received and registered in the Copyright Office.
Public Law 102-307 makes renewal registration optional.
Thus, filing for renewal registration is no longer required
to extend the original 28-year copyright term to the full
95 years. However, some benefits accrue to renewal registrations
that were made during the 28th year.
For more detailed information on renewal of copyright
and the copyright term, request Circular
Renewal of Copyright; Circular
15a, Duration of Copyright; and Circular
15t, Extension of Copyright Terms.
Transfer of Copyright
Any or all of the copyright owner’s exclusive rights
or any subdivision of those rights may be transferred,
but the transfer of exclusive rights is not valid unless
that transfer is in writing and signed by the owner of
the rights conveyed or such owner’s duly authorized
agent. Transfer of a right on a nonexclusive basis does
not require a written agreement.
A copyright may also be conveyed by operation of law and
may be bequeathed by will or pass as personal property
by the applicable laws of intestate succession.
Copyright is a personal property right, and it is subject
to the various state laws and regulations that govern the
ownership, inheritance, or transfer of personal property
as well as terms of contracts or conduct of business. For
information about relevant state laws, consult an attorney.
Transfers of copyright are normally made by contract.
The Copyright Office does not have any forms for such transfers.
The law does provide for the recordation in the Copyright
Office of transfers of copyright ownership. Although recordation
is not required to make a valid transfer between the parties,
it does provide certain legal advantages and may be required
to validate the transfer as against third parties. For
information on recordation of transfers and other documents
related to copyright, request Circular
12Recordation of Transfers and Other Documents.
Under the previous law, the copyright in a work reverted
to the author, if living, or if the author was not living,
to other specified beneficiaries, provided a renewal claim
was registered in the 28th year of the original term.*
The present law drops the renewal feature except for works
already in the first term of statutory protection when
the present law took effect. Instead, the present law permits
termination of a grant of rights after 35 years under certain
conditions by serving written notice on the transferee
within specified time limits. For works already under statutory
For works already under statutory copyright protection before 1978, the present
law provides a similar right of termination covering the newly added years
that extended the former maximum term of the copyright from 56 to 95 years.
For further information, request Circulars
15a and 15t.
*Note: The copyright in
works eligible for renewal on or after June 26, 1992, will
vest in the name of the renewal claimant on the effective
date of any renewal registration made during the 28th year
of the original term. Otherwise, the renewal copyright
will vest in the party entitled to claim renewal as of
December 31st of the 28th year.
International Copyright Protection
There is no such thing as an “international copyright” that
will automatically protect an author’s writings throughout
the entire world. Protection against unauthorized use in
a particular country depends, basically, on the national
laws of that country. However, most countries do offer
protection to foreign works under certain conditions, and
these conditions have been greatly simplified by international
copyright treaties and conventions. For further information
and a list of countries that maintain copyright relations
with the United States, request Circular
38a, International Copyright Relations of the
In general, copyright registration is a legal formality
intended to make a public record of the basic facts of
a particular copyright. However, registration is not a
condition of copyright protection. Even though registration
is not a requirement for protection, the copyright law
provides several inducements or advantages to encourage
copyright owners to make registration. Among these advantages
are the following:
- Registration establishes a public record of the copyright claim.
- Before an infringement suit may be filed in court, registration
is necessary for works of U.S. origin.
- If made before or within 5 years of publication, registration will establish
prima facie evidence in court of the validity of the copyright and of
the facts stated in the certificate.
- If registration is made within 3 months after publication of the work
or prior to an infringement of the work, statutory damages and attorney's
fees will be available to the copyright owner in court actions. Otherwise,
only an award of actual damages and profits is available to the copyright
- Registration allows the owner of the copyright to record the registration
with the U. S. Customs Service for protection against the importation
of infringing copies.
For additional information, go to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection
website at www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/import.
Click on “Intellectual Property Rights.”
Registration may be made at any time within the life of
the copyright. Unlike the law before 1978, when a work
has been registered in unpublished form, it is not necessary
to make another registration when the work becomes published,
although the copyright owner may register the published
edition, if desired.
To register a work, send the following three elements
in the same envelope or package to:
Library of Congress
101 Independence Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20559-6000
- A properly completed application form.
- A nonrefundable filing fee* for each application.
- A nonreturnable deposit of the work being registered. The deposit
requirements vary in particular situations. The general requirements
follow. Also note the information under “Special
- If the work was first published in the United States on or after
January 1, 1978, two complete copies or phonorecords of the best
- If the work was first published in the United States before January
1, 1978, two complete copies or phonorecords of the work as first
- If the work was first published outside the United States, one
complete copy or phonorecord of the work as first published.
- If sending multiple works, all applications, deposits, and fees
should be sent in the same package. If possible, applications
should be attached to the appropriate deposit. Whenever possible,
number each package (e.g., 1 of 3, 2 of 4) to facilitate processing.
Copyright Office fees are subject to change. For
current fees, please check the Copyright Office website,
write the Copyright Office, or call (202) 707-3000.
What Happens if the Three Elements Are Not Received Together
Applications and fees received without appropriate copies,
phonorecords, or identifying material will not be processed
and ordinarily will be returned. Unpublished deposits without
applications or fees ordinarily will be returned, also.
In most cases, published deposits received without applications
and fees can be immediately transferred to the collections
of the Library of Congress. This practice is in accordance
with section 408 of the law, which provides that
the published deposit required for the collections of the
Library of Congress may be used for registration only if
the deposit is “accompanied by the prescribed application
After the deposit is received and transferred to another service unit of
the Library for its collections or other disposition, it is no longer available
to the Copyright Office. If you wish to register the work, you must deposit
additional copies or phonorecords with your application and fee.
To register a renewal, send:
- A properly completed application Form RE and, if necessary, Form RE Addendum,
- A nonrefundable filing fee
for each application. (See Note above.) Each Addendum
form must be accompanied by a deposit representing the work being
reviewed. See Circular 15, Renewal of Copyright.
|NOTE: Complete the application form using black
ink pen or type. You may photocopy blank application forms. However,
photocopied forms submitted to the Copyright Office must be clear,
legible, on a good grade of 8V * 11" white paper suitable
for automatic feeding through a photocopier. The forms should
be printed, preferably in black ink, head-to-head so that when
you turn the sheet over, the top of page 2 is directly behind
the top of page 1. Forms not meeting these requirements may be
returned resulting in delayed registration.
Preregistration is a service intended for works that have
had a history of prerelease infringement. To be eligible
for preregistration, a work must be unpublished and must
be in the process of being prepared for commercial distribution.
It must also fall within a class of works determined by
the Register of Copyrights to have had a history of infringement
prior to authorized commercial distribution. Preregistration
is not a substitute for registration. The preregistration
application is only available online.
Special deposit requirements exist for many types of works. The following
are prominent examples of exceptions to the general deposit requirements:
If the work is a motion picture, the deposit requirement is one
complete copy of the unpublished or published motion picture and
a separate written description of its contents, such as a continuity,
press book, or synopsis.
If the work is a literary, dramatic, or musical work published only
in a phonorecord, the deposit requirement is one complete phonorecord.
If the work is an unpublished or published computer program, the
deposit requirement is one visually perceptible copy in source code
of the first 25 and last 25 pages of the program. For a program of
fewer than 50 pages, the deposit is a copy of the entire program.
For more information on computer program registration, including
deposits for revised programs and provisions for trade secrets, request Circular
61,Copyright Registration for Computer Programs.
If the work is in a CD-ROM format, the deposit requirement is one
complete copy of the material, that is, the CD-ROM, the operating
software, and any manual(s) accompanying it. If registration is sought
for the computer program on the CD-ROM, the deposit should also include
a printout of the first 25 and last 25 pages of source code for the
In the case of works reproduced in three-dimensional copies,
identifying material such as photographs or drawings is
ordinarily required. Other examples of special deposit
requirements (but by no means an exhaustive list) include
many works of the visual arts such as greeting cards, toys,
fabrics, and oversized materials (request Circular
40a, Deposit Requirements for Registration of
Claims to Copyright in Visual Arts Material); video games
and other machine-readable audiovisual works (request Circular
61); automated databases (request Circular
65, Copyright Registration for Automated Databases);
and contributions to collective works. For information about
deposit requirements for group registration of serials,
62, Copyright Registration for Serials.
If you are unsure of the deposit requirement for your work, write or call
the Copyright Office and describe the work you wish to register.
Under the following conditions, a work may be registered
in unpublished form as a “collection,” with
one application form and one fee:
- The elements of the collection are assembled in an orderly form;
- The combined elements bear a single title identifying the collection as
- The copyright claimant in all the elements and in the collection as a
whole is the same; and
- All the elements are by the same author, or, if they are by different
authors, at least one of the authors has contributed copyrightable authorship
to each element.
An unpublished collection is not indexed under the individual titles of the
contents but under the title of the collection.
NOTE: A Library of Congress Control Number is different
from a copyright registration number. The Cataloging in Publication
(CIP) Division of the Library of Congress is responsible for
assigning LC Control Numbers and is operationally separate from
the Copyright Office. A book may be registered in or deposited
with the Copyright Office but not necessarily cataloged and added
to the Library’s collections. For information about obtaining
an LC Control Number, see the following website: http://pcn.loc.gov/pcn.
For information on International Standard Book Numbering (ISBN),
write to: ISBN, R.R. Bowker, 630 Central Ave., New Providence,
NJ 07974. Call (877) 310-7333. For further information and to
apply online, see www.isbn.org. For information on International
Standard Serial Numbering (ISSN), write to: Library of Congress,
National Serials Data Program, Serial Record Division, Washington,
DC 20540-4160. Call (202) 707-6452. Or obtain information from
Effective Date of Registration
A copyright registration is effective on the date
the Copyright Office receives all the required elements
in acceptable form, regardless of how long it then takes
to process the application and mail the certificate of
registration. The time the Copyright Office requires to
process an application varies, depending on the amount
of material the Office is receiving.
If you apply for copyright registration, you will not
receive an acknowledgment that your application has been
received (the Office receives more than 600,000 applications
annually), but you can expect:
A letter or a telephone call from a Copyright Office staff member if
further information is needed or
A certificate of registration indicating that the work has been registered,
or if the application cannot be accepted, a letter explaining why it has
Requests to have certificates available for pickup in
the Public Information Office or to have certificates sent
by Federal Express or another mail service cannot be honored.
If you want to know the date that the Copyright Office
receives your material, send it by registered or certified
mail and request a return receipt.
Corrections and Amplifications of Existing
To correct an error in a copyright registration or to
amplify the information given in a registration, file with
the Copyright Office a supplementary registration Form
CA together with the filing. The information in a
supplementary registration augments but does not supersede
that contained in the earlier registration. Note also
that a supplementary registration is not a substitute
for an original registration, for a renewal registration,
or for recording a transfer of ownership. For further
information about supplementary registration, request Circular
8, Supplementary Copyright Registration.
Although a copyright registration is not required, the
Copyright Act establishes a mandatory deposit requirement
for works published in the United States. See the definition “publication”.
In general, the owner of copyright or the owner of the
exclusive right of publication in the work has a legal
obligation to deposit in the Copyright Office, within 3
months of publication in the United States, two copies
(or in the case of sound recordings, two phonorecords)
for the use of the Library of Congress. Failure to make
the deposit can result in fines and other penalties but
does not affect copyright protection
Certain categories of works are exempt entirely from the
mandatory deposit requirements, and the obligation is reduced
for certain other categories. For further information about
mandatory deposit, request Circular
7d, Mandatory Deposit of Copies or Phonorecords
for the Library of Congress.
Use of Mandatory Deposit to Satisfy
For works published in the United States, the copyright law contains a provision
under which a single deposit can be made to satisfy both the deposit requirements
for the Library and the registration requirements. In order to have this dual
effect, the copies or phonorecords must be accompanied by the prescribed application
form and filing fee.
Who May File an Application Form?
The following persons are legally entitled to submit an application form:
The author. This is either the person who actually created
the work or, if the work was made for hire, the employer or other person
for whom the work was prepared.
The copyright claimant. The copyright claimant is defined
in Copyright Office regulations as either the author of the work or a
person or organization that has obtained ownership of all the rights under
the copyright initially belonging to the author. This category includes
a person or organization who has obtained by contract the right to claim
legal title to the copyright in an application for copyright registration.
The owner of exclusive right(s). Under the law, any
of the exclusive rights that make up a copyright and any subdivision
of them can be transferred and owned separately, even though the
transfer may be limited in time or place of effect. Theterm “copyright
owner” with respect to any one of the exclusive rights contained
in a copyright refers to the owner of that particular right. Any
owner of an exclusive right may apply for registration of a claim
in the work.
The duly authorized agent of such author, other copyright
claimant, or owner of exclusive right(s). Any person authorized to
act on behalf of the author, other copyright claimant, or owner of
exclusive rights may apply for registration.
There is no requirement that applications be prepared or filed by an attorney.
For Original Registration
||for published and unpublished works of the performing arts
(musical and dramatic works, pantomimes and choreographic works, motion
pictures and other audiovisual works)
||for serials, works issued or intended to be issued in successive parts
bearing numerical or chronological designations and intended to be continued
indefinitely (periodicals, newspapers, magazines, newsletters, annuals,
||for published and unpublished sound recordings
||for published and unpublished nondramatic literary works
||for published and unpublished works of the visual arts (pictorial, graphic,
and sculptural works, including architectural works)
||a specialized form to register a complete month's issues of a daily
newspaper when certain conditions are met
Form/SE and Form
||specialized SE forms for use when certain requirements
Forms TX, PA,
||short versions of applications for original registration.
For further information about using the short forms, request publication
||specialized form to register a claim in a work in
which U. S. copyright was restored under the 1994 Uruguay Round Agreements
Act (URAA). For further information, request
For Renewal Registration
||for claims to renew copyright in works copyrighted under the law in
effect through December 31, 1977 (1909 Copyright Act) and registered during
the initial 28-year copyright term
||accompanies Form RE for claims to renew copyright in works
copyrighted under the 1909 Copyright Act but never registered during their
initial 28-year copyright term
For Corrections and Amplifications
||for supplementary registration to correct or amplify information given
in the Copyright Office record of an earlier registration
For a Group of Contributions to Periodicals
||an adjunct application to be used for registration of a
group of contributions to periodicals in addition to an application Form
TX, PA, or
How to Obtain Application Forms
See “For Further Information.”
You must have Adobe
Acrobat Reader ® installed on your computer to view and print
the forms accessed on the Internet. Adobe Acrobat Reader may
be downloaded free from Adobe Systems Incorporated through links
from the same website from which the forms are available. Print
forms head to head (top of page 2 is directly behind the top
of page 1) on a single piece of good quality, 8½ × 11" white
paper. To achieve the best quality copies of the application
forms, use a laser printer.
Fill-In Forms Available
Most Copyright Office forms are available on the Copyright
Office website in fill-in version. Go to www.copyright.gov/forms
and follow the instructions. The fill-in forms allow you to enter information
while the form is displayed on the screen by an Adobe Acrobat Reader
product. You may then print the completed form and mail it to the Copyright
Office. Fill-in forms provide a clean, sharp printout for your records
and for filing with the Copyright Office.
All remittances should be in the form of drafts, that
is, checks, money orders, or bank drafts, payable to Register
of Copyrights. Do not send cash. Drafts must be redeemable
without service or exchange fee through a U. S. institution,
must be payable in U. S. dollars, and must be imprinted with
American Banking Association routing numbers. International
Money Orders and Postal Money Orders that are negotiable
only at a post office are not acceptable.
If a check received
in payment of the filing fee is returned to the Copyright
Office as uncollectible, the Copyright Office will cancel
the registration and will notify the remitter. The filing
fee for processing an original, supplementary, or renewal
claim is nonrefundable, whether or not copyright registration
is ultimately made. Do not send cash. The Copyright Office
cannot assume any responsibility for the loss of currency
sent in payment of copyright fees. For further information,
4, Copyright Fees.
Certain Fees and Services May Be Charged to a Credit Card
Some fees may be charged by telephone and in person in the office. Others
may only be charged in person in the office. Credit card payments are generally
authorized only for services that do not require filing of applications or
other materials. An exception is made for fees related to items that are hand-carried
into the Public Information Office.
Certifications and Documents Section: These fees
may be charged in person in the office or by phone: additional
certificates; copies of documents and deposits; searching,
locating and retrieving deposits; certifications; and expedited
Public Information Office: These fees may only
be charged in person in the office, not by phone: standard
registration request forms; special handling requests for
all standard registration requests; requests for services
provided by the Certifications and Documents Section when
the request is accompanied by a request for special handling;
search requests for which a fee estimate has been provided;
additional fee for each claim using the same deposit; full
term retention fees; appeal fees; Secure Test processing
fee; short fee payments when accompanied by a Remittance
Due Notice; in-process retrieval fees; and online service
Reference and Bibliography Section: Requests for
searches on a regular or expedited basis can be charged
to a credit card by phone.
Records Maintenance Unit: Computer time on COINS,
printing from the Optical Disk, and photocopying can be
charged in person in the office.
Fiscal Control Section: Deposit Accounts maintained by the Fiscal
Control Section may be replenished by credit card. See Circular
5, How to Open and Maintain a Deposit Account in the Copyright
NIE recordations and claims filed on Form GATT may be
paid by credit card if the card number is included in a
separate letter that accompanies the form.
The records of the Copyright Office are open for inspection
and searching by the public. Moreover, on request and payment
of a fee,* the Copyright
Office will search its records for you. For information
on searching the Office records concerning the copyright
status or ownership of a work, request Circular
22, How to Investigate the Copyright Status
of a Work, and Circular
23, The Copyright Card Catalog and the Online
Files of the Copyright Office.
Copyright Office records in machine-readable form cataloged from January
1, 1978, to the present, including registration and renewal information and
recorded documents, are now available for searching from the Copyright Office
website at www.copyright.gov.
Information via the Internet: Circulars, announcements,
regulations, other related materials, and all copyright application forms
are available from the Copyright Office Website at www.copyright.gov.
Information by telephone: For general information
about copyright, call the Copyright Public Information
Office at (202) 707-3000. The tty number is (202) 707-6737.
Staff members are on duty from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm, eastern
time, Monday through Friday, except federal holidays. Recorded
information is available 24 hours a day. Or, if you know
which application forms and information circulars you want,
you may request them 24 hours a day from the Forms and
Publications Hotline at (202) 707-9100. You may leave a
Information by regular mail: Write to:
Library of Congress
101 Independence Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20559-6000
For a list of other material published by the Copyright Office, request Circular
2, Publications on Copyright.
The Copyright Public Information Office is open to the
public 8:30 am to 5:00 pm Monday through Friday, eastern
time, except federal holidays. The office is located in
the Library of Congress, James Madison Memorial Building,
101 Independence Avenue SE, Washington, DC, near the Capitol
South Metro stop. Staff members are available to answer
questions, provide circulars, and accept applications for
registration. Access for disabled individuals is at the
front door on Independence Avenue SE.
The Copyright Office is not permitted to give legal advice.
If information or guidance is needed on matters such as
disputes over the ownership of a copyright, suits against
possible infringers, the procedure for getting a work published,
or the method of obtaining royalty payments, it may be
necessary to consult an attorney.
Note: The Copyright
Office provides a free electronic mailing list, NewsNet, that
issues periodic email messages on the subject of
copyright. The messages alert subscribers to hearings,
deadlines for comments, new and proposed regulations,
new publications, and other copyright-related subjects
of interest. NewsNet is not an interactive
discussion group. To subscribe, send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the body of the message say “subscribe uscopyright”.
Or fill in the subscription form online at www.copyright.gov/newsnet.
You will receive a standard welcoming message indicating
that your subscription to NewsNet has been accepted.
Circular 1, Revised July 2006
This electronic version has been altered
slightly from the original printed text for website presentation. For
a copy of the original circular, consult the PDF
version or write to Copyright Office, 101 Independence
Avenue SE, Washington, DC