Part 1: What Copyright Is
On January 1, 1978, the Copyright Act of 1976 (title 17 of the
United States Code) came into effect. This general revision of the
copyright law of the United States, the first such revision since
1909, made important changes in our copyright system and
superseded the previous federal copyright statute.
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published and unpublished works.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 publically, in the case of
literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works,
pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audivisual
- To display the copyrighted work publically, 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 118 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 by 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.
Part 2: Who Can Claim Copyright
Copyright protection subsists from the time the work is created
in fixed form: that is, it is 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 Act defines a "work made for hire" as:
(1) a work prepared by an employee within the scope
of his or her employment; or
(2) a work specially ordered or commissioned for use
as a contribution to a collective work, as 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 will 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
- 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 in your state.
The determination of what constitutes a "work for hire" under the
Copyright Act is based upon common law agency principles, and not upon
who has the right to control the product or has actual control of the
product, a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court ruled on June 5 (COMMUNITY FOR
CREATIVE NON-VIOLENCE v. REID).
The court, in an opinion by Justice Marshall, ruled that a
statue, dramatizing the plight of the homeless, which was commissioned
by the Community for Creative Non-Violence, a non-profit group whose
mission is to eradicate homelessness, is not a work for hire, although
the court noted that CCNV could still be found to be a joint author.
Section 101 of the Copuright Act, 17 USC 101, provides that a
work is "for hire" under two possible circumstances: first, a work can
be "prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment,"
17 USE 101(1), or, as specified in 17 USC 101(2), a work can be
specially ordered or commissioned as part of a collective work, a movie
or other audiovisual work, a translation, a supplementary work, a
compilation, an isstructional text, a test, or an atlas. The parties
agreed that the statue did not satisfy the requirements of 17 USE
101(2), so the only issue was whether it could be considered a "work
prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment."
CCNV, supported by amicus briefs filed by publishers, asserted
that a work created by an independent contractor can be a work for hire
under 17 USC 101(1) if the employer retains the right to control the
product, or if the employer has actually wielded control with respect to
the creation of a particular work. In a joint brief, the Magazine
Publishers of America Inc., the Hearst Corp., The New York Times Co.,
Playboy Enterprises, and Time Inc. said that magazine and newspaper
publishers "shape and direct" the creative process, and that they must
be able to rely upon work for hire relationships with contributors they
supervise and direct.
Neither of the "control" tests "is consistent with the text of
the act," the court said. "Section 101 clearly delineates between works
prepared by an employee and commissioned works. Sound though other
distinctions might be as a matter of copyright policy, there is no
statutory support for an additional dichotomy between commissioned works
that are actually controlled and supervised by the hiring party and
those that are not." The hiring party's right to control the product
"simply is not determinative," the court said.
The term "employee" as used in 17 USC 101(1) "should be
understood in light of the general common law of agency," the court
said. Using that criterion, the court found that the sculptor, James
Earl Reid, was not a CCNV employee, noting that Reid supplied his own
tools, worked in his own studio, was retained by CCNV for only two
months, and was paid a specific sum contingent upon completion of the
specific job. CCNV paid no payroll or social security taxes for Reid,
provided no employee benefits, and did not contribute to any
unemployment insurance or workers' compensation funds, the court said.
Part 3: Copyright and National Origin of the Work
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 either of the following conditions are 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 or
domiciliary, or soverign authority of a foreign nation that is a party
to a copyright treaty to which the U.S. 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 the first publication, is a party to
the Universal Copyright Convention; or the work comes within the scope
of a Presidential proclamation.
The Manufacturing Clause
The manufacturing clause in the copyright law, section 601 of the
1976 Copyright Act (title 17, U.S. Code), expired July 1, 1986.
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 categories:
(1) literary works;
(2) musical works, including any accompanying words;
(3) dramatic works, including any accompanying music;
(4) pantomimes and choreographic works;
(5) pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works;
(6) motion pictures and other audiovisual works; and
(7) sound recordings.
These categories should be viewed quite broadly: for example,
computer programs and most "compilations" are registrable as "literary
works"; maps and architectural blueprints are registerable as
"pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works."
Part 4: What Is Not Protected By Copyright
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
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, 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.
How To Secure A Copyright
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.
There are, however, certain definite advantages to registration. (See
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. In general, "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
faxations of sounds (excluding, by statutory definition, motion picture
soundtracks), such as audio tapes and phonograph disks. 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, the part of the work that is
fixed on a particular date constitutes the created work as of that date.
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 (section 304 sets the term) copyright for all works in
which ad interim copyright was subsisting or was capable of being
secured on December 31, 1977.
Anyone wishing to obtain a copyright should write to the Copyright
Office (address below) and request the appropriate forms. Write to:
Library of Congress
Washington, D.C. 20559
NOTE: The Copyright Office itself 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 with an attorney.
Part 5: Publication
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 owner-
ship, 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 perform-
ance or display of a work does not of itself constitute
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 of
phonorecords are offered for sale or lease to a group of wholesalers,
broadcasters, or motion picture theaters, publication does takes place
if the purpose is further distribution, public performance, or public
Publication is an important concept in the copyright law for
- When a work is published, all published copies should bear
a notice of copyright. (See Part 6 at a later date)
- Works that are published with notice of copyright in the
United States are subject to mandatory deposit with the
Library of Congress.
- Publication of a work can affect the limitations on the
exclusive rights of the copyright owner that are set
forth in sections 107 through 118 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.
Part 6: Notice of Copyright
When a work is published under the authority of the copyright
owner, a notice of copyright should be placed on all publicly
distributed copies and on all publicly distributed phonorecords of sound
recordings. This notice is required even on works published outside of
the United States. Failure to comply with the notice requirement can
result in the loss of certain additional rights otherwise available to
the copyright owner.
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. As mentioned earlier, use of
the notice makes the published works subject to mandatory deposit
Form of Notice for Visually Perceptible Copies
The notice for visually perceptible copies should contain all of
the following three elements:
(1) The SYMBOL (c) -- the letter C in a circle -- or the
word "Copyright," of the abbreviation "Copr."; and
(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.
Examples: (c) 1989 VITRON Management Consulting, Inc.
Copyright 1989 James J. Spinelli
(c) Copyright 1989 RelayNet
The "(c)" notice is required 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 audi
recording. Since audio recordings such as audio tapes and phonograph
disks are "phonorecords" and not "copies," there is no requirement that
the phonorecord bear a "(c)" notice to protect 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. (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.") The notice appearing on phonorecords should contain the
following three elements:
1. The SYMBOL (p) -- 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.
Example: (p) 1989 A.B.C., Inc.
NOTE: Because of problems that might result in some cases from the use
of variant forms of the notice, any form of the notice other than those
given above 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 norice 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 should ordinarily appear
together on the copies or phonorecords.
Publications Incorporating United States Government Works
Works by the U.S. Government are not subject to copyright
protection. Whenever a work is published in copies or phonorecords
consisting preponderantly of one or more works of the U.S. Government,
the notice of copyright shall also include a statement that identifies
one of the following: those portions protected by the copyright law OR
those portions that constitute U.S. Government material.
The copyright notice is not required on unpublished works. (See
earlier post that defines the concept of "publishing.") To avoid an
inadvertent publication without notice, however, it may be advisable for
the author or other owner of the copyright to affix notices, or a
statement such as UNPUBLISHED WORK (c) Copyright 1989, John Smith, to
any copies or phonorecords which leave his or her control.
Effect of Omission of the Notice or of Error in the Name or Date
Unlike the law in effect before 1978, the new 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
In general, the omission or error does not automatically
invalidate the copyright in a work 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 U.S. after the
omission or error has been discovered.
Here's a post that, by necessity, I need to provide to you. As you
will note, it is pertinent to the discussions pertaining to
As you may recall, several users have begun a brief discussion
regarding whether or not government agencies and government entities
may disregard the "unauthorized" duplication of copyrighted material.
Well, the following may indicate that such a policy may be near its
From: Rachel Parker, as appeared in the current issue of INFOWORLD --
Software lobbying groups are celebrating a new Supreme Court
ruling that they believe lends support to their efforts to close a
loophole in the Copyright Act.
In PENNSYLVANIA vs. UNION GAS CO., the state of Pennsylvania
argued that it could not be required to pay monetary damages for
violating an environmental law because states are immune from such
federal interference under the 11th AAmendment. In a closely
divided ruling, the Court held that while the state was protected
by the 11th Amendment, the state agency could be held liable for
monetary damages if Congress had specifically named such
organizations in laws.
This issue is a familiar one to the PC software industry. In
1988, the University of California at Los Angeles defended
itself in a computer software copyright action, saying that as a
state agency it was immune from paying monetary damages. The court
in that case, called BV ENGINEERING vs. U.C.L.A., said that while
the school had illegally copied the software, BV Engineering could
not collect any monetary damages from the school.
Since that case was decided, the Software Publishers
Association and Adapso have been working with legislators to amend
the Copyright Act, making states and their agencies specifically
liable for monetary damages in copyright infringement cases.
"I suspect that now that UNION GAS has come downm we will get
our law," said Mary Jane Saunders, general counsel for SPA.
A proposed law has been drafted, and the two trade groups have
been sponsoring testimony before Congress supporting the proposal.
Part 7 - How Long Copyright Protection Endures
Works Originally Copyrighted 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 it 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 creation, whichever is shorter.
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 cases will generally be computed in the
same way as for works created on or after January 1,1978. 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 Copyrighted 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 laws has extended the
renewal term from 28 to 47 years for copyrights that were subsisting
on January 1, 1978, making the works eligible for a total term of
protection of 75 years. However, the copyright MUST be renewed to
receive the 47-year period of added protection. This is accomplished
by filing a properly completed Form RE accompanied by a $6 filing fee
in the Copyright Office before the end of the 28th calendar year of
the original term.
Part 8 - Transfer of Copyright
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 state
laws, you are advised to consult with an attorney within your state.
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. (See Circular 12)
Termination of Transfers
Under the previous law, the copyright in a work generally 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
generally 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. (See Circulars 15a and 15t)
Part 9 - International Copyright Protection
There is no such thing as an "international copyright" that will
automatically protect an author's work 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. (See Circular 38a)
The United States is a member of the Universal Copyright Conven-
tion (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 formalities a UCC member country would
otherwise impose as a condition of copyright. A UCC notice should
consist of the symbol (c) -- the letter "C" in a circle -- accompanied
by the name of the copyright proprietor and the year of first
publication of the work. (Note: to qualify, a work must be considered
"published." Unpublished works do not generally qualify. See
definition of "a published work" above.)
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.
Copyrights - Part 10a
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 two specific situations, registration is
not a condition of copyright protection. (The two specific situations
are: Works published with notice of copyright prior to January 1,
1978, must be registered and renewed during the first 28-year term of
copyright to maintain protection. Under section 405 and 406 of the
Copyright Act, copyright registration may be required to preserve a
copyright that would otherwise be invalidated because the copyright
notice was omitted from the published copies or phonorecords, or the
name or year date 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
- Registration is ordinarily necessary before any infringement
suits may be filed in court;
- 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; and
- If registration is made within 3 months adfter 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 owner.
Registration may be made at any time within the life of the
copyright. Unlike the law before 1978 (i.e., effective in 1978, while
passed in 1976), 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 msy choose to register the
published edition, if desired).
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, DC 20559:
1. A properly completed application form;
2. A nonrefundable filing fee of $10 for each application;
3. A nonreturnable deposit of the work being registered.
The deposit requirements vary in particular situations. The
GENERAL requirements follow. Also note that information
under "Special Deposit Requirements" will follow this
section (but in a different post).
- If the work is unpublished, one complete copy or phono-
- 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,
whenever published, one complete copy or phonorecord of the
work as first published.
NOTE: Before 1978, the copyright law required, as a condition for
copyright protection, that all copies published with the
authorization of the copyright owner bear a proper notice.
If a work was published under the copyright owner's
authority before January 1, 1978, without a proper
copyright notice, all copyright protection for that work
was permanently lost in the United States. The current
copyright law does not provide retroactive protection for
B. To register a renewal, send:
1. A properly completed RE application form, and
2. A nonrefundable filing fee of $6 for each work.
Copyrights - Part 10b
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. For example,
in the case of a published motion picture, only one copy of the work
is required, but is must be accompanied by a separate written
description of the work. 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; video games and other machine-readable audiovisual works;
and contribution to collective works.
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
- The combined elements bear a single title identifying the
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.
Unpublished collections are indexed in the Catalog of Copyright
Entries opnly under the collection titles.
If you are unsure of the proper deposit required for your work,
write to te Copyright Office for that information and describe the
work you wish to register.
NOTE: LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOG CARD NUMBERS:
A Library of Congress Catalog Card Number is different from a
copyright registration number. The Cataloging in Publication (CIP)
Division of the Library of Congress is responsible for assigning LC
Catalog Card 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 Catalog Card
Number, contact the CIP Division, Library of Congress, Washington,
D.C. 20540. For information on International Standard Book Numbering
(ISBN), write to: ISBN Agency, R.R.Bowker Company, 205 East 42nd
Street, New York, N.Y. 10017. For information on International
Standard Serial Numbering (ISSN), write to: Library of Congress,
National Serials Data Program, Washington, D.C. 20540.
Copyrights - Part 11a
Corrections and Amplifications of Existing Registrations
To correct an error in a copyright registration or to amplify
the ionformation 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, write to the Copyright Office
and request Circular 8.
Mandatory Deposit for Works Published in the United States with Notice
Although a copyright registration is not required, the Copyright
Act establishes a mandatory deposit requirement for works published
with notice of copyright in the United States. 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 three months of publication in the U.S., 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, contact the Copyright Office and
request Circular 7d.
Use of Mandatory Deposit to Satisfy Registration Requirements
For works published in the U.S. the Copyright Act contains
a provision under which a single deposit can be made to sarisfy 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 fee
Who May File an Application Form
The following persons are legally entitled to submit an
- 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 the 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 new 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 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 right(s) may apply for
There is no requirement that applications be prepared or filed by an
Copyrights - Part 12
Though not part of our original outline, we have decided to
provide you with the information regarding the specific application
forms required for particular materials.
1. For Original Registration
Form TX: for published and unpublished non-dramatic literary
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,
Form PA: for published and unpublished works of the performing
arts (musical and dramatic works, pantomimes and
choreographic works, motion pictures and other audiovisual
Form VA: for published and unpublished works of the visual arts
(pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works)
Form SR: for published and unpublished sound recordings
2. For Renewal Registration
Form RE: for claims to renewal copyright works copyrighted under
the law in effect through December 31, 1977 (1909
3. For Corrections and Amplifications
Form CA: for supplementary registration to correct or amplify
informationm given in the Copyright Office record of an
4. For a Group of Contributions to Periodicals
GR/CP: ad adjunct application to be used for registration of a
group of contributions to peridicals in addition to an
application Form TX, PA, or VA
Applications are supplied by the Copyright Office. You may obtain free
copies by calling (202) 707-9100.
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.
The application, nonreturnable deposit (copies, phonorecords, or
identifying material), and nonrefundable filing fee should be mailed
in the same package. Fees must be in U.S. funds drawn on an American
Effective Date of Registration
A copyright registration is effective on the date of receipt in
the Copyright Office of all the required elements in accdeptable form,
regardless of the length of time it takes thereafter to process the
application and mail the certificate of registration. The length of
time required by the Copyright Office to process an application varies
from time to time.
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 within 120
- A letter or telephone call from a copyright examiner if
further information is needed;
- A certificate of registration to indicate the work has been
registered, or if the application cannot be accepted, a letter
explaining why it has been rejected.
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 three
weeks for the return of your receipt.
This completes our discussion of copyrights in general. In our next
post in the near future, we'll provide you with information on Circular
61 - Copyright Registration for Computer Programs, and on Circular 93
- Highlights of the U.S. Adherence to the Berne Convention.
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