Compendium of U.S. Copyright Practices, 3rd Edition

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Chapter 2300
Chapter 2400

101.3 (A) National Copyright Registration and Recordation System


101.3 (A) National Copyright Registration and Recordation System


The Copyright Act establishes the U.S. Copyright Office’s statutory obligation to administer both a copyright registration and copyright recordation system on behalf of the Nation. Pursuant to its provisions, the Office undertakes the following duties, among others:


Registration: The U.S. Copyright Office examines applications for registering claims to copyright and any accompanying deposit copy(ies) to determine whether they satisfy the statutory requirements for registrability, including copyrightability, and otherwise comply with the Office’s regulations. Based on its findings, the Office then either registers or refuses to register the claims. Many of the controlling provisions for registration are set forth in Chapter 4 of the Copyright Act. Section 408 of the Act authorizes the Register to promulgate regulations to allow identifying material in place of deposit copy(ies), permit the registration of groups of related works with one application, and provide for the correction and amplification of registrations. Section 410 of the Act sets forth the Register’s authority to examine and either register or refuse copyright claims. Sections 411 and 412 address registration as a prerequisite for civil infringement claims and certain remedies. Chapters 200 through 2200 of this Compendium discuss the Office’s policies and practices relating to the examination of claims for copyright registration.


Recordation: The statutory provisions governing recordation are set forth in Chapter 2 of the Copyright Act. Under Section 205, any transfer of copyright ownership or other document relating to copyright may be recorded in the U.S. Copyright Office, subject to certain conditions. The recordation of documents pertaining to transfers or other ownership matters is voluntary, but recommended because: (I) it provides constructive notice of the facts stated in the recorded document if certain conditions have been met; (ii) when a transfer of copyright is timely recorded (within one month of its execution in the United States or two months of its execution outside of the United States, or any time before a conflicting transfer is recorded), the recorded transfer prevails over a later executed transfer; and (iii) a complete public record may mitigate problems related to orphan works. Interested parties also record or consult documents pertaining to licenses, death of authors, expiration of term, wills, trusts, security interests, and mortgages, to name a few. For a discussion of some of these documents, see Chapter 2300 of this Compendium.


Termination notices: The Copyright Act allows, under certain circumstances, authors or their heirs to terminate an agreement that previously granted one or more of the author’s exclusive rights to a third party. These termination provisions are set forth in Sections 203, 304 (C), and 304 (D) of the Act. To terminate an agreement, a notice of termination must be served on the grantee, and it must be recorded with the U.S. Copyright Office in a timely manner as a condition of effect. 17 U.S.C. §§ 203 (A) (4), 304 (C) (4), 304 (D) (1). For a discussion of recordation of notices of termination, see Chapter 2300, Section 2310 of this Compendium.


Public records: The U.S. Copyright Office maintains extensive public records of copyright claims dating back to 1870 and in some instances earlier, including:


• Certificates of registration, which attest that registration has been made and may constitute prima facie evidence of the validity of the copyright and of the facts stated in the certificate (if registration is made before publication or within five years of first publication). 17 U.S.C. § 410 (C).


• The online public record, which provides the basic facts of registrations and recordations made after January 1, 1978. This information is available in a searchable database on the Office’s website.


• The Copyright Card Catalog, which is a physical archive available for public use at the Copyright Office in searching for completed registrations and recorded documents made before January 1, 1978.


In some circumstances, the Office will issue certified copies of applications, correspondence, deposit copy(ies), documents, and other materials submitted to the Office in connection with copyright registrations and recorded documents. In addition, the Office has a reference search service that provides search reports regarding the facts of registration and recordation contained in the Office’s files. For a discussion of these services, see Chapter 2400 of this Compendium.


Mandatory deposit: The U.S. Copyright Office administers Section 407 of the Copyright Act, which requires copyright owners to deposit certain published works with the Library of Congress for its collections. In this role, the Office may facilitate, demand, negotiate, or exempt the provision of copies or phonorecords. Absent a special exemption, the law requires that one or two copies of the best edition of every copyrightable work published in the United States be sent to the Office within three months of publication, regardless of whether a claim in the work is registered. 17 U.S.C. § 407 (A). For a detailed discussion of mandatory deposit, see Chapter 1500, Section 1511 of this Compendium.


Service provider directory: The Office of Public Records and Repositories administers a directory of service provider agents to receive notifications of claims of infringement as provided under Section 512 (C) of the Copyright Act.


Mask works: The U.S. Copyright Office examines and registers claims to mask works fixed in semiconductor chip products filed under the Semiconductor Chip Protection Act of 1984, title III of Pub. L. No. 98-620, 98 Stat. 3347 (codified as amended at 17 U.S.C. §§ 901-914). Chapter 1200 of this Compendium discusses the examination of claims in mask works.


Vessel designs: The U.S. Copyright Office examines and registers claims in vessel designs filed under the Vessel Hull Design Protection Act, title V of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Pub. L. No. 105-304, 112 Stat. 2860, 2905 (1998) (codified as amended at 17 U.S.C. §§ 1301-1332). Chapter 1300 of this Compendium discusses the examination of claims in vessel designs.


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