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

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Chapter 100
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Chapter 300
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Chapter 2400

1907 Distributing the Work vs. An Offer to Distribute the Work

1907 Distributing the Work vs. An Offer to Distribute the Work

The statute states that a work is published when copies or phonorecords are distributed to the public. It also states that offering to distribute copies or phonorecords to a group of persons for the purpose of further distribution, public performance, or public display constitutes publication. See 17 U.S.C. § 101 (definition of “publication”). In other words, publication occurs when either of these conditions has been met.


• Distributing copies of a photograph to the public constitutes publication (even if the copies were offered solely for private display).

• Offering to distribute copies of a lithograph to a number of galleries for the purpose of public display constitutes publication, but offering the same copies to a group of individuals solely for private display does not.

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