Copyright Compendium

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Chapter 2400

612.3 Determining whether the Work Is Published or Unpublished

612.3 Determining whether the Work Is Published or Unpublished


The applicant – not the U.S. Copyright Office – must determine whether the work is published or unpublished. This determination should be based on the facts that exist at the time the application is filed with the Office, and it should be based on the definition of publication under U.S. copyright law, even if the work was created or published in another country.


As a general rule, the Office will accept the applicant’s representation that the work is published or unpublished, unless that statement is implausible or is contradicted by information provided elsewhere in the registration materials or in the Office’s records or by information that is known to the registration specialist.


Upon request, the registration specialist will provide the applicant with general information about the provisions of the Copyright Act, including the statutory definition of publication, and will identify the relevant practices and procedures for registering a work with the Office. However, the Office will not give specific legal advice on whether a particular work has or has not been published or make that determination for the applicant.

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