The FOIA : An Overview and Reference Handbook
FOIA Frequently Asked Questions (FOIA FAQ's)
Based on the principle that an informed public is essential
to the democratic process, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which can
be found at section
552 of Title 5 of the United States Code (U.S.C.), requires
federal agencies to make agency records available to the public either proactively
or in response to a request, subject to certain conditions and exceptions.
The FOIA includes nine exemptions and three exclusions that permit an agency
to withhold a record in part or in full in limited circumstances. The federal
FOIA does not provide a right of access to records held by Congress, the
courts, state or local government agencies, or by private businesses or individuals.
The Privacy Act, which can be found at 5 U.S.C. § 552a, contains similar
provisions with respect to records relating to an individual requester. The
Copyright Office is subject to the FOIA and the Privacy Act, and sets forth
its regulations governing requests made pursuant to these Acts at 37 Code
of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.), part 203
(FOIA) and part
204 (Privacy Act).
Types of Records the Copyright Office Maintains
One of the Copyright Office’s primary functions is
to record authors’ and other claimants’ claims to copyright in
original works of authorship. The Copyright Office maintains records of these
registrations as well as materials deposited with applications for registration
(e.g., a copy of the work), records relating to the application process (e.g.,
correspondence between the Copyright Office and the applicant regarding the
application or deposit); recorded documents (e.g., copyright assignments),
records relating to the statutory licensing of copyrighted works (e.g., statements
of account), and other records regarding the Office’s general operations.
Not all of these types of records exist for each registered work, and the
Copyright Office maintains some records only for a limited time. The Office
also creates and maintains numerous information
circulars, which explain
selected provisions of copyright law and procedures. Circular
1a more fully
explains the various roles and functions the Copyright Office serves.
Records the Copyright Office Makes Available Without Having
to File a FOIA Request
Copyright Registration Records
The Copyright Office makes a vast quantity of records publicly
available without requiring an individual to file a FOIA request. Although
many FOIA requests to the Copyright Office demand access to records relating
to copyright registrations, these records are already available for public
inspection, in accordance with sections 705 and 706 of
Title 17, United States Code (U.S.C.) and section
201.2 of Title 37, Code
of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.), and most records may be copied for
a fee. The Copyright Office will not make copies of registered deposit material,
however, unless authorized by the copyright claimant or for other specified
reasons related to litigation activity, which requires the use of a prescribed
original form available from the Certifications and Documents Section. Requests
for inspection, copying or certification of registration records should be
directed to the Certifications and Documents Section, U.S. Copyright Office,
101 Independence Avenue, SE, Washington, DC 20559-6000; Tel: (202) 707-6787;
Fax: (202) 252-3519; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The Office’s information circulars
4, 6, and 22 provide
further detail about gaining access to and/or copies of this information
and the charges that may be assessed.
If you need to locate information about a registration,
rather than viewing the actual registration itself, you may Search
Copyright Registrations and Documents for free by using the Copyright
website or by visiting our Washington, D.C., facility in person. Alternatively,
you may request the Copyright Office to perform a search for you for a fee
by contacting the Reference and Bibliography Section, U.S. Copyright Office,
101 Independence Avenue, SE, Washington, DC 20559-6000; Tel: (202) 707-6850;
Fax: (202) 252-3485; Email: email@example.com.
Statutory Licensing Records
The Licensing Division of the Copyright Office maintains
records of transactions related to the statutory licensing of secondary transmissions
of copyrighted works on cable television systems and by satellite carriers
for private home viewing, the making and distributing of phonorecords, the
use of certain works in connection with noncommercial broadcasting, the public
performance of sound recordings via digital audio transmissions, and the
public performance of copyrighted music on jukeboxes from 1978 to 1989. These
records are open to public inspection and searching from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00
p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday except federal holidays. Inquiries
should be directed to the Licensing Division, U.S. Copyright Office, 101
Independence Avenue, SE, Washington, DC 20557-6400; Tel: (202) 707-8150;
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Further information regarding the Licensing Division
is available in information circular 75.
The Office also makes many other records available for
free on its website, including: information circulars
applications and other forms, the text of the Copyright
Act, the Office’s
regulations located in 37 C.F.R. Part 2,
the Office’s Federal Register
notices, current copyright legislation,
reports and studies, Congressional
testimony, and frequently asked questions (FAQ).
Alternatively, you may request printed copies of such forms,
information circulars and certain other Copyright Office publications by
calling the Copyright Office’s Forms Hotline
at (202) 707-9100. Follow the recorded instructions for leaving a message
including the name or description of the publication you are requesting and
the address to which the publication is to be mailed.
A bound copy of the 1976 Copyright Act, as amended, may be obtained
by requesting [circular 92)] from the U.S. Government Bookstore.
The Public Information Office (PIO) is available by phone
and email to answer questions from members of the public for free regarding
the Copyright Office’s procedures and the copyright law in general.
PIO cannot, however, provide specific legal advice. You may contact PIO by
phone at (202) 707-3000, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through
Friday except federal holidays. You may also send an email inquiry from
the contact us link of the Copyright
Office web site or http://www.copyright.gov/help/general-form.html.
Should I Submit a FOIA Request to the Copyright Office
for Records That Are Maintained by the Library of Congress?
No. Although the Copyright Office is a service unit of
the Library of Congress, these two entities
function separately with respect to the FOIA. The Copyright Office is subject
to the FOIA and the Privacy Act because the Copyright Act itself so provides.
This provision does not, however, apply to the Library of Congress, which
has developed its own procedures for responding to requests for information
and access to its records. Requests for records maintained by the Library
of Congress should be directed to: Chief, Office Systems Services (OSS),
Library of Congress, 101 Independence Avenue, S.E., Washington, DC 20540-9440.
How to Make a FOIA Request to the Copyright Office
The Copyright Office’s FOIA Requester Service Center
is responsible for processing all initial requests submitted pursuant to
the FOIA or the Privacy Act. All initial requests must be in writing and
sent by mail to:
FOIA Requester Service Center
P.O. Box 70400
Washington, DC 20024
To facilitate a prompt response, the request should be
clearly marked “Freedom of Information Act Request.” Moreover,
records requested should be well-described, meaning that the description
should enable the Office to identify the records requested by any process
that is not unreasonably burdensome or disruptive to Office operations. The
Office may contact the requester to attempt to narrow or further define the
nature and scope of the request. A requester is advised to provide a daytime
telephone number, fax number, and/or email address in case the FOIA Requester
Service Center needs additional information in order to process the request.
The Office will search for potentially responsive records created prior to
the date that the Office begins its search.
If a request is denied, the notification will include the
basis for the denial. Appeals may be made in writing to the General Counsel,
United States Copyright Office, at the address listed above. Appeals must
be made within 30 calendar days of the date of the Office's denial.
How to Obtain Information about the Status of Your FOIA
The FOIA Requester Service Center is the first place that a FOIA requester
should contact to seek information concerning the status of that person’s
FOIA request and appropriate information about the Copyright Office’s
FOIA response. The Center can be reached at (202) 707-6800. FOIA requesters
can subsequently raise any concerns about the service they received from
the Center to the FOIA public liaison. The liaison can be reached at (202)
Designated Officers under Executive Order 13392
Chief FOIA Officer: Tanya M. Sandros, Acting General Counsel
Liaison: Peter M. Vankevich, Supervisory Copyright Information Specialist
List of Records
The Privacy Act of 1974 requires that the Copyright Office maintain a list
of the systems of records it keeps, together with descriptions of the records
kept in those systems and methods the public may use to access information
in the systems. The most up-to-date version of the systems of records was
published in September 1998 and amended in October 1999. This updated list
reflects changes, additions, and deletions of records maintained by the Office
since the last publication of systems of records, which occurred in August
1993. See the complete list of
Copyright Office System of Records.
U.S. Copyright Office Freedom of Information Act
Annual Reports—Fiscal Year:
2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | 2000 | 1999 | 1998
Report Implementing Presidential Executive
Order 13392: Improving Agency Disclosure
Updated Status Report on Deficiencies Under E.O. 13,392 (August 1, 2008)