Copyright in US law

Allen Thrasher athr at
Thu Oct 24 15:02:55 UTC 1996

The following is an official statement of US Copyright law downloaded from
the Library of Congress. Parts have gotten a bit garbled in the process
but the main points I think are clear.  N.B. the following in particular:

1.  There are two international copyright conventions, the Universal
Copyright Convention and the Berne Convention.  The U.S. long belonged to
the former but only recently has signed on the to the latter, which
necessitated various changes in U.S. copyright law.  

2.  Copyright in the U.S. is now inherent, i.e. one does not have to
register a work to be protected by it, although registration does provide
significant legal advantages.

3.  Computer databases are copyrightable.

I am not going to comment on the particulars of the discussion of the
Mahabharata database that has been going on in this list.

Allen Thrasher

Allen W. Thrasher
Senior Reference Librarian
Southern Asia Section
Library of Congress
Washington, DC 20540-4814
tel. (202) 707-5600
fax  (202) 707-1724
email: athr at

                         COPYRIGHT BASICS


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is available to both published and unpublished works.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 Copyright Act generally gives the owner of copyright the
exclusive right to do and to authorize others to do the following:

  --  To reproduce the copyrighted work in copies or phonorecords;

  --  To prepare derivative works  based upon the copyrighted work;

  --  To distribute copies or phonorecords  of the copyrighted work
      to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by
      rental, lease, or lending;

  --  To perform the copyrighted work publicly, in the case of
      literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works,      
      pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works; 

  --  To display the copyrighted 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.

It is illegal for anyone to violate any of the rights provided
by the Act to the owner of copyright.  These rights, however, are
not unlimited in scope.  Sections 107 through 119 of the 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 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 Act or write to the
Copyright Office.

Copyright protection subsists from the time the work is created in
fixed form; that is, it is an incident of the process of
authorship. The copyright in the work of authorship immediately 
becomes the property of the author who created it.  Only the author
or those deriving their rights through the author can rightfully
claim copyright.

In the case of works made for hire, the employer and not the
employee is presumptively considered the author.  Section 101 of
the copyright statute defines a "work made for hire" as:

     her employment; or�
     contribution to a collective work, as a part of a motion    
     picture or other audiovisual work, as a translation, as a   
     supplementary work, as a compilation, as an instructional   
     text, as a test, as answer material for a test, or as 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 foreign
      nation that is a party to a copyright treaty to which the
      United States is also a party, or is a stateless person
      wherever that person may be domiciled; or

  --  The work is first published in the United States or in a
      foreign nation that, on the date of first publication, is a
      party to the Universal Copyright Convention; or the work
      comes within the scope of a Presidential proclamation; or

  --  The work is first published on or after March 1, 1989, in a
      foreign nation that on the date of first publication, is a
      party to the Berne Convention; or, if the work is not  first
      published in a country party to the Berne Convention, it is
      published (on or after March 1,1989) within 30 days of first
      publication in a country that is party to the Berne
      Convention; or the work, first published on or after March
      1, 1989, is a pictorial, graphic, or sculptural work that is
      incorporated in a permanent structure located in the United
      States; or, if the work, first published on or after March
      1, 1989, is a published audiovisual work, all the authors are
      legal entities with headquarters in the United States.

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 categories:








These categories should be viewed quite broadly: for example,
computer programs and most "compilations" are registrable as
"literary works;" maps and architectural plans are registrable as
"pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works."


Several categories of material are generally not eligible for
statutory copyright protection. These include among others:

  --  Works that have not been fixed in a tangible form of ex-
      pression.  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

  --  Ideas, procedures, methods, systems, processes, concepts,
      principles, discoveries, or devices, as distinguished from
      a description, explanation, or illustration.

  --  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.


Copyright Secured Automatically Upon Creation

The way in which copyright protection is secured under the present
law 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.
NOTE: Before 1978, statutory copyright was generally secured by 
the act of publication with notice of copyright, assuming 
compliance with all other relevant statutory conditions.  Works in 
the public domain on January 1, 1978 ( for example, works published
without satisfying all conditions for securing statutory copyright
under the Copyright Act of 1909) remain in the public domain under
the current act.

Statutory 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 current Act automatically
extends to full term (sectin 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. 
                      *    *    *    *
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,
CD's, or LP's.  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 statutory copyright
as it was under the Copyright Act of 1909.  However, publication
remains important to copyright owners.

The 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 publication.

A further discussion of the definition of "publication" can be
found in the legislative history of the 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�

Publication is an important concept in the copyright law for
several reasons:

  --  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.  Works published before March 1,   
      1989, must bear the notice or risk loss of copyright      
      protection.  (See discussion "notice of copyright" below.)

  --  Works that are published in the United States are subject to
      mandatory deposit with the Library of Congress. (See      
      discussion on "mandatory deposit," below.)

  --  Publication of a work can affect the limitations on the
      exclusive rights of the copyright owner that are set forth
      in sections 107 through 120 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 hire.

  --  Deposit requirements for registration of published works   
      differ from those for registration of unpublished works. (See
      discussion on "registration procedures," below.)


For works first published on and after March 1, 1989, use of the
copyright notice is optional, though highly recommended. Before
March 1, 1989, the use of the notice was mandatory on all published
works, and any work first published before that date must bear a
notice or risk loss of copyright protection.

(The Copyright Office does not take a position on whether works
first published with notice before March 1, 1989, and reprinted and
distributed on and after March 1, 1989, must bear the copyright

Use of the notice is recommended 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 the work carries a proper notice, the
court will not allow a defendant to claim "innocent infringement"
--that is, that he or she did not realize that the work is 
protected.  (A successful innocent infringement claim may result
in a reduction in damages that the copyright owner would otherwise

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 Office.

Form of Notice for Visually Perceptible Copies

The notice for visually perceptible copies should contain all of
the following three elements:

     1. The copyright symbol (the letter "C" in a circle), or the�

     2. 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;
     3. 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.

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.

Form of Notice for Phonorecords of Sound Recordings

The copyright notice for phonorecords of sound recordings* has
somewhat different requirements. The notice appearing on
phonorecords should contain the following three elements:

*Sound recordings are defined 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, regardless of the nature of the material
objects, such as disks, tapes, or other phonorecords, in which
they are embodied."
     1. The sound recording copyright symbol (the letter "P" in a
        circle); and

     2. The year of first publication of the sound recording; and

     3. 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 labels or containers, and if no other name
        appears in conjunction with the notice, the producer's name
        shall be considered a part of the notice.

NOTE:  Since questions may arise from the use of variant forms of
the notice, any form of the notice other than those given here
should not be used without first seeking legal advice.

Position of Notice

The notice should be affixed to copies or phonorecords of the
work in such a manner and location as to "give reasonable notice
of the claim of copyright."  The notice on phonorecords may appear
on the surface of the phonorecord or on the phonorecord label or
container, provided the manner of placement and location give
reasonable notice of the claim.  The three elements of the notice�
The Copyright Office has issued regulations concerning the form and
position of the copyright notice in the Code of Federal Regulations
(37 CFR Part 201). For more information, request Circular 3.

Publications Incorporating United States Government Works

Works by the U.S. Government are not eligible for 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 the copyright notice for these works is still strongly
recommended.  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 one of the
following: those portions of the work in which copyright is claimed
or those portions that constitute U.S. Government material.
An example is:


Works published before March 1, 1989, that consist primarily of one
or more works of the U.S. Government must bear a notice and the
identifying statement.

Unpublished Works

To avoid an inadvertent publication without notice, the author or
other owner of copyright may wish to place a copyright notice on
any copies or phonorecords that leave his or her control.
An appropriate notice for an unpublished work is:
Unpublished work Copyright 1994 Jane Doe.

Effect of Omission of the Notice or of Error in the Name or Date

The Copyright Act, in sections 405 and 406, provides procedures for
correcting errors and omissions of the copyright notice on works
published on or after January 1, 1978, and before March 1, 1989.

In general, if a notice was omitted or an error was made on copies
distributed on or after January 1, 1978, and before March 1, 1989,
the copyright was not automatically lost.  Copyright protection may
be maintained if registration for the work has been made before or
is made within 5 years after the publication without notice, and
a reasonable effort is made to add the notice to all copies or
phonorecords that are distributed to the public in the United
States after the omission has been discovered.  For more
information request Circular 3.


Works Originally Created On or After January 1, 1978

A work that is 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 50 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 50 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 75 years from publication or 100 years from�

Works Originally Created Before January 1, 1978, 
But Not Published or Registered by That Date

Works that were created but not published or registered for
copyright before January 1, 1978, have been automatically brought
under the statute and are now given Federal copyright protection. 
The duration of copyright in these works will generally be computed
in the same way as for works created on or after January 1, 1978: 
the life-plus-50 or 75/100-year terms will apply to them as well. 
The law provides that in no case will 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, 2027.

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 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 current copyright law has
extended the renewal term from 28 to 47 years for copyrights that
were subsisting on January 1, 1978, making these works eligible for
a total term of protection of 75 years.  

Public Law 102-307, enacted on June 26, 1992, amended the Copyright
Act of 1976 to extend automatically the term of copyrights secured
from January 1, 1964, through December 31, 1977 to the further term
of 47 years and increased the filing fee from $12 to $20. This fee
increase applies to all renewal applications filed on or after June
29, 1992.

P.L. 102-307 makes renewal registration optional. There is no need
to make the renewal filing in order to extend the original 28-year
copyright term to the full 75 years. However, some benefits accrue
to making a renewal registration during the 28th year of the
original term.

For more detailed information on the copyright term, write to the
Copyright Office and request Circulars 15, 15a, and 15t.  For
information on how to search the Copyright Office records
concerning the copyright status of a work, request Circular 22.


Any or all of the exclusive rights, or any subdivision of those
rights, of the copyright owner 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�

Transfers of copyright are normally made by contract.  The
Copyright Office does not have or supply any forms for such
transfers.  However, 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 12.

Termination of Transfers

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 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.]  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 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 75 years.  For further
information, request Circulars 15a and 15t.


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 a list of countries which maintain copyright relations with the
United States, request Circular 38a.

The United States belongs to both global, multilateral copyright
treaties_the Universal Copyright Convention (UCC) and the Berne
Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works.  The
United States was a founding member of the UCC, which came into
force on September 16, 1955.  Generally, a work by a national or
domiciliary of a country that is a member of the UCC or a work
first published in a UCC country may claim protection under the
UCC.  If the work bears the notice of copyright in the form and
position specified by the UCC, this notice will satisfy and
substitute for any other formalities a UCC member country would
otherwise impose as a condition of copyright.  A UCC notice should
consist of the symbol  accompanied by the name of the copyright
proprietor and the year of first publication of the work.

By joining the Berne Convention on March 1, 1989, the United States
gained protection for its authors in all member nations of the�
copyright relations or had bilateral treaty arrangements. Members
of the Berne Union agree to a certain minimum level of copyright
protection and agree to treat nationals of other member countries
like their own nationals for purposes of copyright.  A work first
published in the United States or another Berne Union country (or
first published in a non-Berne country, followed by publication
within 30 days in a Berne Union country) is eligible for protection
in all Berne member countries.  There are no special requirements. 
For information on the legislation implementing the Berne
Convention, request Circular 93 from the Copyright Office.

An author who wishes protection for his or her work in a particular
country should first find out the extent of protection of foreign
works in that country.  If possible, this should be done before the
work is published anywhere, since protection may often depend on
the facts existing at the time of first publication.

If the country in which protection is sought is a party to one of
the international copyright conventions, the work may generally be
protected by complying with the conditions of the convention.  Even
if the work cannot be brought under an international convention,
protection under the specific provisions of the country's national
laws may still be possible.  Some countries, however, offer little
or no copyright protection for foreign works.


In general, copyright registration is a legal formality intended
to make a public record of the basic facts of a particular
copyright.  However, except in one specific situation,*
registration is not a condition of copyright protection.  [*Under
sections 405 and 406 of the Copyright Act, copyright registration
may be required to preserve a copyright on a work first published
before March 1, 1989, that would otherwise be invalidated because
the copyright notice was omitted from the published copies or
phonorecords, or the name or year was omitted, or certain errors
were made in the year date.]  Even though registration is not
generally 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  

  --  Before an infringement suit may be filed in court,         
      registration is necessary for works of U.S. origin and for 
      foreign works not originating in a Berne Union country.  (For

      more information on when a work is of U.S. origin, request 
      Circular 93.);

  --  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 

      record the registration with the U.S. Customs Service for
      protection against the importation of infringing copies. For
      additional information, request Publication No. 563 from: 


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).


In General

A. To register a work, send the following three elements in the
same envelope or package to the Register of Copyrights, Copyright
Office, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.  20559:  (see
"Incomplete Submissions," below, for what happens if the elements
are sent separately).

1.  A properly completed application form;
2.  A nonrefundable filing fee of $20* for each application [*For 
    the fee structure for application Form SE/GROUP amd Form G/DN, 
    see the instructions for these forms];
3.  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
    Deposit Requirements" immediately following this section.

  --  If the work is unpublished, one complete copy or           

  --  If the work was first published in the United States on or
      after January 1, 1978, two complete copies or phonorecords 
      of the best edition.

  --  If the work was first published in the United States before
      January 1, 1978, two complete copies or phonorecords of the
      work as first published.

  --  If the work was first published outside the United States, 
      one complete copy or phonorecord of the work as first      



TYPEWRITER.  You may photocopy blank application forms: however,
photocopied forms submitted to the Copyright Office must be clear,
legible, on a good grade of 8-1/2 inch by 11 inch white paper
suitable for automatic feeding through a photocopier. The forms�
when you turn the sheet over, the top of page 2 is directly behind
the top of page 1).  Forms not meeting these requirements will be

Special Deposit Requirements

Special deposit requirements exist for many types of work.  In some
instances, only one copy is required for published works, in other
instances only identifying material is required, and in still other
instances, the deposit requirement may be unique.  The following
are prominent examples of exceptions to the general deposit

  --  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 pub- 
      lished only on phonorecord, the deposit requirement is one
      complete copy of the phonorecord.

  --  If the work is an unpublished or published computer program,
      the deposit requirement is one visually perceptible copy in
      source code of thefirst 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.)

  --  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 the identical work is also available in print or hard copy
      form, send one complete copy of the print version and one
      complete copy of the CD-ROM version.

  --  For information about group registration of serials, request
      Circular 62.

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, fabric, oversized material (request
Circular 40a); video games and other machine-readable audiovisual
works (request Circular 61 and ML-387); automated databases
(request Circular 65); and contributions to collective works.

If you are unsure of the deposit requirement for your work, write
or call the Copyright Office and describe the work you wish to

Unpublished Collections

A work may be registered in unpublished form as a "collection,"
with one application and one fee, under the following conditions:

  --  The elements of the collection are assembled in an orderly
      collection as a whole;
  --  The copyright claimant in all the elements and in the
      collection as a whole is the same; and
  --  All of 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 indexed in the _Catalog of Copyright
Entries_ only under the collection title.


To correct an error in a copyright registration or to amplify the
information given in a registration, file a supplementary
registration form_Form CA_with the Copyright Office.  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.


Although a copyright registration is not required, the Copyright
Act establishes a mandatory deposit requirement for works published
in the United States (see definition of "publication," above).  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, 2 copies (or in the case of sound recordings, 2
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.


For works published in the United States the Copyright Act 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 and
filing fee. 


The following persons are legally entitled to submit an application

  --  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.
      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           

  --  The owner of exclusive right(s). Under the law, any of the
      exclusive rights that go to 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.  The term "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 

  --  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      

There is no requirement that applications be prepared or filed by
an attorney.


For Original Registration

Form TX:  for published and unpublished nondramatic literary works

Form SE:  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, journals, etc.)

Short Form/SE and Form SE/GROUP: specialized SE forms for use when
certain requirements are met

Form G/DN:  a specialized form to register a complete month's
issues of a daily newspaper when certain conditions are met

Form PA:  for published and unpublished works of the performing
arts (musical and dramatic works, pantomimes and choreographic
works, motion pictures and other audiovisual works)

Form VA:  for published and unpublished works of the visual arts
(pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works, including architectural

Form SR:  for published and unpublished sound recordings

For Renewal Registration

Form RE:  for claims to renewal copyright in works copyrighted
under the law in effect through December 31, 1977 (1909 Copyright

For Corrections and Amplifications
information given in the Copyright Office record of an earlier

For a Group of Contributions to Periodicals

Form GR/CP:  an adjunct application to be used for registration of
a group of contributions to periodicals in addition to an
application Form TX, PA, or VA

Free application forms are supplied by the Copyright Office.


NOTE:  Requestors may order application forms and circulars at any
time by telephoning (202) 707-9100.  Orders will be recorded
automatically and filled as quickly as possible. Please specify the
kind and number of forms you are requesting.


All applications and materials related to copyright registration
should be addressed to the Register of Copyrights, Copyright
Office, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.  20559-6000.

The application, nonreturnable deposit (copies, phonorecords, or
identifying material), and nonrefundable filing fee should be
mailed in the same package.

We suggest that you contact your local post office for information
about mailing these materials at lower-cost fourth class postage


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
and fee...."

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.


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�

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 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. 


A copyright registration is effective on the date the Copyright
Office receives all of 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 and the personnel
available.  Keep in mind that it may take a number of days for
mailed material to reach the Copyright Office and for the
certificate of registration to reach the recipient after being
mailed by the Copyright Office.

If you are filing an application for copyright registration in the
Copyright Office, you will not receive an acknowledgement that your
application has been received, but you can expect: 

  --  A letter or telephone call from a Copyright Office staff   
      member if further information is needed;

  --  A certificate of registration to indicate the work has been
      registered; or 

  --  If registration cannot be made, a letter explaining why it
      has been refused. 

Please allow 120 days to receive a letter or certificate of

If you want to know when the Copyright Office receives your
material, you should send it by registered or certified mail and
request a return receipt from the post office.  Allow at least 3
weeks for the return of your receipt.


The records of the Copyright Office are open for inspection and
searching by the public.  Moreover, on request, the Copyright
Office will search its records at the statutory rate of $20 for
each hour or fraction of an hour.  For information on searching the
Office records concerning the copyright status or ownership of a
work, request Circulars 22 and 23.  Records from 1978 may be
searched via the Internet.  For access, see below.


This circular attempts to answer some of the questions that are
frequently asked about copyright.  For a list of other material�
"Publications on Copyright."  Any requests for Copyright Office
publications or special questions relating to copyright problems
not mentioned in this circular should be addressed to the Copyright
Office, LM 455, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.  20559-6000.  
To speak to a Copyright Information Specialist, call (202) 707-3000
between 8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m., Eastern Time, Monday-Friday, except
Federal Holidays. 

Copyright information, including many of the other circulars mentioned
in Circular 1, as well as the latest Copyright Office regulations and
announcements, is available via the Internet.  Internet site 
addresses are:

World Wide Web URL:
Telnet: and login as marvel

Copyright Office records of registrations and other related 
documents from 1978 forward are also available over the Internet
via the above addresses or telnet directly to LOCIS (Library of
Congress Information System) at:


The Copyright Public Information Office is also open to the
public Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Eastern Time, except
Federal holidays.  The office is located in the Library of Congress,
Madison Building, Room 401, at 101 Independence Ave., S.E.,
Washington, D.C., near the Capitol South Metro stop.  Information
Specialists are available to answer questions, provide  circulars, 
and accept applications for registration.  Access for disabled 
individuals is at the front door on Independence Avenue, S.E.
The Copyright Office is not permitted to give legal advice.  If you
need information or guidance 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.

***Last update 9/95 (er)***

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