COMPENDIUM: Chapter 200
Overview of the Registration Process
201 What This Chapter Covers
This Chapter provides a general overview of the copyright registration system and the practices and procedures for submitting an application to register a work created or first published on or after January 1, 1978. For a chart that illustrates the entire registration process at a glance, see Section 212.
For a detailed discussion of the U.S. Copyright Office’s registration practices, see the following chapters:
- For the practices and procedures for examining copyright claims, see Chapter 500.
- For the practices and procedures for registering certain groups of works, see Chapter 1100.
- For a general discussion of filing fees and applications, including the Single Application, which may be used to register a single work by a single author, see Chapter 1400.
- For the practices and procedures for correcting or amplifying the information in an existing copyright registration and for asserting an adverse claim to copyright, see Chapter 1800.
- For the practices and procedures for the renewal of copyright claims, see Chapter 2100.
For a detailed discussion of the Office’s practices and procedures for specific types of works, see the following chapters:
- For literary works, see Chapter 700.
- For works of the performing arts, see Chapter 800.
- For visual art works, see Chapter 900.
- For websites and website content, see Chapter 1000.
- For mask works, see Chapter 1200.
- For vessel designs, see Chapter 1300.
- For foreign works, see Chapter 2000.
202 Purposes and Advantages of Registration
Under the current copyright law, a work of authorship is protected by copyright from the moment it is created, provided that the work is original and has been fixed in a tangible medium of expression. See 17 U.S.C. §§ 102(a), 408(a). Although registration is not required for a work to be protected by copyright, it does provide several important benefits:
- A registration creates a public record that includes key facts relating to the authorship and ownership of the claimed work, as well as information about the work, such as title, year of creation, date of publication (if any), and the type of authorship that the work contains (e.g., photographs, text, sound recordings).
- Registration (or a refusal to register) is a prerequisite to filing a lawsuit for copyright infringement involving a U.S. work. See 17 U.S.C. § 411(a); see also Petrella v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc., 132 S. Ct. 1962, 1977 (2014) (“Although registration is ‘permissive,’ both the certificate and the original work must be on file with the Copyright Office before a copyright owner can sue for infringement.”); Alaska Stock, LLC. v. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Co., 747 F.3d 673, 678 (9th Cir. 2014) (“Though an owner has property rights without registration, he needs to register the copyright to sue for infringement.”).
- To claim statutory damages or attorney’s fees in a copyright infringement lawsuit, a work must be registered before the infringement began or within three months after the first publication of the work. See 17 U.S.C. §§ 412(c), 504, 505.
- A registration constitutes prima facie evidence of the validity of the copyright and the facts stated in the certificate of registration, but only if the work is registered before or within five years after the work is first published.
- A registration provides information to prospective licensees, such as the name and address for obtaining permission to use the work.
- A document that has been recorded with the U.S. Copyright Office may provide constructive notice of the facts stated therein, but only if the document specifically identifies a work of authorship and only if that work has been registered. See 17 U.S.C. § 205(c)(1)-(2).
- The deposit copy(ies) submitted with an application for registration of a published work may satisfy the mandatory deposit requirement, provided that the applicant submitted the best edition of the work. See 17 U.S.C. §§ 407, 408(b).
- A registration is necessary to secure the full benefits of a preregistration that has been issued by the U.S. Copyright Office. See 17 U.S.C. § 408(f)(3).
- The U.S. Customs and Border Protection Service may seize foreign pirated copies of a copyright owner’s work, provided that the work has been registered
with the U.S. Copyright Office and the certificate of registration has been recorded with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Service.
- A registration is required to claim royalties under the compulsory license for making and distributing phonorecords. See 17 U.S.C. § 115(c)(1).
202.1 Types of Registrations
The U.S. Copyright Office registers claims to copyright in works of authorship. As a general rule, the Office will issue one registration for each work that is submitted for registration. The Office will not issue separate registrations for the constituent elements or individual components of a work of authorship. Likewise, the Office will not issue separate registrations to each author who contributed copyrightable expression to the work.
The U.S. Copyright Office currently offers the following types of registrations:
- Basic registrations. An application for a basic registration is used to register a copyright claim in a work created or first published on or after January 1, 1978, and covers the full term of the copyright. This type of registration may be obtained with a Standard Application or a Single Application (provided certain eligibility requirements have been met). For a discussion of the Standard Application and Single Application, see Chapter 1400, Sections 1402.4 and 1402.5.
- Group registrations. An application for a group registration is used to register a claim to copyright in a group of related works that qualify for a single registration. See 17 U.S.C. § 408(c)(2). For a detailed discussion of group registration, see Chapter 1100.
- Supplementary registration. An application for a supplementary registration may be used to correct or amplify the information in a basic or renewal registration. 17 U.S.C. § 408(d). For a detailed discussion of supplementary registration, see Chapter 1800, Section 1802.
- GATT registration. An application for a GATT registration is used to register a copyright claim in a work in which U.S. copyright was restored by the 1994 Uruguay Round Agreements Act (URAA). See Uruguay Round Agreements Act, 103 P.L. 465, 108 Stat. 4809 (1994) (codified as amended at 17 U.S.C. § 104A). For a discussion of GATT registration, see Chapter 2000, Section 2007.
- Renewal registration. An application for a renewal registration is used to cover the renewal term for works copyrighted before January 1, 1978. See 17 U.S.C. § 304. For a detailed discussion of renewal registration, see Chapter 2100.
202.2 Registration Distinguished from Preregistration
Preregistration is a special service that is intended for specific types of works that are likely to be infringed before they are completed or before they are released for Chapter 200 7 12/22/2014 commercial distribution, such as feature films. A preregistration is not the same as registration and the vast majority of applicants would not benefit from this service. Applicants should reflect carefully on whether preregistration is necessary in a specific case. For more information on preregistration, see Chapter 1600.
202.3 Registration Distinguished from Recordation
Registration and recordation are two separate procedures: claims to copyright are registered, while documents related to copyright claims, such as agreements to transfer or grant a mortgage in copyrights, are recorded. As discussed in Section 204, an applicant must submit an application, deposit copy(ies), and a filing fee to register a claim to copyright, and together these items are the primary source of information for the claim. As a general rule, the applicant does not need to submit additional documents substantiating the information provided in these materials.
Registering a claim to copyright is not a substitute for recording a document with the U.S. Copyright Office, and recording a document is not a substitute for registering a claim to copyright. See 17 U.S.C. § 205. For a detailed discussion of the practices and procedures for recording a document with the Office, see Chapter 2300.
203 Timing of Registration
Registration may be made at any time before the copyright has entered the public domain. See 17 U.S.C. §§ 302-305 and 408(a). Generally speaking, a copyrighted work enters the public domain in the United States when “its full copyright term has expired.” Golan v. Holder, 132 S. Ct. 873, 878 (2012).
Although registration may be made at any time before a copyright expires or any time before bringing an infringement action in federal court, the U.S. Copyright Office strongly encourages copyright owners to submit their works for registration in a timely manner. As discussed in Section 202, a registration is a prerequisite for seeking statutory damages and attorney’s fees in an infringement action. To pursue these remedies, an unpublished work must be registered before the infringement occurs, while a published work must be registered within three months after publication or before the infringement occurs. See 17 U.S.C. § 412. Moreover, if the work is registered before or within five years after the work is first published, the registration constitutes prima facie evidence of the validity of the copyright and the facts stated in the certificate of registration.
204 Required Elements for Registration
To register a claim to copyright, an applicant must submit the following items to the U.S. Copyright Office:
- Completed application;
- Full filing fee; and
- Chapter 200 8 12/22/2014 The requisite deposit copy(ies) of the work.
A general discussion of each of these elements is set forth in Sections 204.1 through 204.3 below. For detailed information on the practices and procedures for completing the application, see Chapter 600. For detailed information on the requirements for the filing fee, see Chapter 1400, Section 1403. For detailed information on the requirements for deposit copy(ies), see Chapter 1500.
204.1 Completed Application
An applicant must use the official applications provided by the U.S. Copyright Office. Most claims may be submitted online by using the Office’s electronic registration system. Applicants must submit paper applications for some specific types of claims, and in most cases, applicants may submit paper applications as an alternative to using the electronic registration system. Each type of application is discussed in Sections 204.1(A) and 204.1(B) below.
204.1(A) Online Application
The U.S. Copyright Office’s electronic registration system may be accessed from the Office’s website, located at www.copyright.gov/eco/.
The Office strongly encourages applicants to use the online application whenever possible. The benefits to filing an online application include:
- Lower filing fees for online applications: The filing fee for an online application is lower than the filing fee for a paper application. For a list of the current filing fees, see the Office’s fee schedule (www.copyright.gov/docs/fees.html).
- Faster processing: The Office typically processes electronic claims three to six months sooner than non-electronic claims. Current processing times are listed on the Office’s website at www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-what.html#certificate.
- Multiple options for paying the filing fee: An applicant may pay the filing fee for an online application by credit card, debit card, electronic check, or with a U.S. Copyright Office deposit account, while in most cases an applicant may pay the filing fee for a paper application only by check, money order, or deposit account.
- Easier submission of the deposit copy(ies): For certain types of works, the applicant may upload deposit copy(ies) directly to the online system as an electronic file, instead of having to submit physical deposit copies through the mail. The Office lists the acceptable file types on its website at www.copyright.gov/eco/help-file- types.html. If the work is published in hard copy form, the applicant may be required to mail the best edition to the Office, but filing the application electronically will expedite processing.
- Chapter 200 9 12/22/2014 The ability to track the status of the application: After submission, the online system allows the applicant to log in and see whether the online application is still pending or whether it has been registered and closed.
For detailed information on completing an online application, see Chapter 600. For information on completing an online application for a group of serials, a group of published photographs, or a group of updates or revisions to a database predominantly consisting of photographs, see Chapter 1100, Sections 1109, 1116, and 1117.
Once the online application has been submitted, the Office automatically issues an email confirming that the application has been received. If there are any issues regarding the claim, a registration specialist will communicate with the applicant via telephone, email, or mail to address those issues. For more information on communications between the Office and the applicant, see Chapter 600, Section 605.
204.1(B) Paper Applications
At this time, applicants must use a paper application to apply for some types of registrations, namely:
- Group registration for daily newspapers, daily newsletters, contributions to periodicals, or databases that do not consist predominantly of photographs.
- Supplementary registrations.
- Renewal registrations.
- GATT registrations.
- Mask work and vessel design registrations.
In such cases, the applicant must submit a paper application on the appropriate form by mail, courier, or hand delivery. For detailed information on these types of paper applications, see Chapter 1400, Sections 1402.4(B), 1402.6(B) through 1402.9.
In all other cases, the Office strongly discourages applicants from using paper applications for the reasons discussed in Section 204.1(A).
Applicants may download paper applications from the Office’s website at www.copyright.gov/forms/, or by requesting the forms from the Public Information Office via email, fax, telephone, or in person. Once completed, the applicant may submit the paper application, along with the required deposit copy(ies) and filing fee, to the Office by mail, courier, or hand delivery.
For general information on how to complete a paper application, see the instructions provided with each form. For specific information on how to complete each space of a paper application, see Chapter 600. For information on how to submit a paper Chapter 200 10 12/22/2014 application by mail, courier, or hand delivery, see Sections 204.1(B)(1) through 204.1(B)(3) below.
204.1(B)(1) By Mail
The address for submitting a paper application, filing fee, and deposit copy(ies) to the U.S. Copyright Office is set forth in space 9 of the paper application in the space marked “Mail To,” which may be found at the bottom of every paper application.
Be advised that all packages that are submitted to the Office by mail will be screened for the presence of anthrax and other deadly contaminants. This screening will delay examination of the registration materials (i.e., the application, filing fee, and deposit copy(ies)) and, in some cases, it could possibly damage the deposit copy(ies), which may cause additional delays. For more information on the screening procedure, see Delivery of Mail to the Copyright Office (www.copyright.gov/mail.html).
204.1(B)(2) By Courier
To submit a paper application, filing fee, and deposit copy(ies) by courier, an applicant must include all of the required elements in a single package and deliver it to the Congressional Courier Acceptance Site (“CCAS”), which is located at 2nd and D Streets NE, Washington, DC. This location is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time, except for federal holidays.
Items delivered to this location typically are sent to the U.S. Copyright Office the next working day. Registration materials submitted through a courier service do not receive a dated receipt from the Office but instead will receive one dated by CCAS. The Office considers the CCAS date of receipt as the date of receipt in the Office.
204.1(B)(3) By Hand Delivery
To submit a paper application, filing fee, and deposit copy(ies) in person, an applicant must deliver all of the required elements to the U.S. Copyright Office’s Public Information Office. This Office is open to the public Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time, except federal holidays, and is located at the following address:
Public Information Office (PIO) Library of Congress, United States Copyright Office James Madison Memorial Building, Room LM-401 101 Independence Avenue SE Washington DC 20559
An applicant who delivers registration materials to the Public Information Office will receive a date-stamped receipt that lists the title of no more than one of the works listed in the application.Chapter 200 11 12/22/2014
NOTE: Visitors to the U.S. Copyright Office must pass through security before entering the building. Sealed packages or packages that are more than twenty-four inches wide by fifteen inches high are not permitted.
204.2 Filing Fee
The current filing fees for online and paper applications are set forth in the U.S. Copyright Office’s fee schedule, which is posted on the Office’s website at www.copyright.gov/docs/fees.html. All filing fees are subject to change. For information concerning the types of payments that the Office will accept, see Chapter 1400, Section 1403.4.
An application submitted with an insufficient filing fee will be delayed until the Office receives full payment, which affects the effective date of registration. If the Office does not receive the correct filing fee within the specified time frame, registration will be refused. For a discussion of the effective date of registration, see Section 209 below; for a discussion of the Office’s practices and procedures regarding insufficient filing fees, see Chapter 1400, Section 1403.7.
204.3 Deposit Copy(ies)
As a general rule, the applicant must submit a complete copy or copies of the work to register a claim to copyright. In certain cases, the U.S. Copyright Office may accept identifying material in lieu of a complete copy. (For a definition and discussion of identifying material, see Chapter 1500, Section 1506.) As discussed above, the deposit copy(ies) for a published work also may satisfy the mandatory deposit requirement for certain works that are published in the United States.
In specific instances, the deposit copy(ies) may be submitted in digital or physical format. The deposit copy(ies) must conform to certain requirements depending on the type of work, the deposit requirements, and whether the work is published or unpublished. As a general rule, the deposit copy(ies) should be clear and should contain all the authorship that the applicant intends to register. An application submitted with an incomplete or unclear deposit copy(ies) will be delayed until the Office receives a complete and/or clear copy. Delays due to incomplete and/or unclear deposit copy(ies) may affect the effective date of registration, which is discussed in Section 209 below.
Once the Office receives the registration materials, a registration specialist will examine the deposit copy(ies) to determine if the work is eligible for registration. The Office will not return the deposit copy(ies) or the identifying material to the applicant.
General information on the procedure for submitting the deposit copy(ies) in digital or physical format is set forth in Sections 204.3(A) and 204.3(B) below. For detailed information on the deposit requirements for registration and the mandatory deposit requirements, see Chapter 1500.Chapter 200 12 12/22/2014
204.3(A) Deposit Copy(ies) Submitted in Electronic Format
The applicant may submit deposit copy(ies) electronically through the online registration system if the work meets any of the following requirements:
- The work is unpublished;
- The work has been published only in a digital format; or
- The work has been published and identifying material is the appropriate deposit for that type of work. (For a detailed discussion of identifying material, see Chapter 1500, Section 1506.)
An applicant must submit the deposit copy(ies) in an acceptable file format. Failure to submit the deposit copy(ies) in an acceptable file format may delay the examination of the claim, and the applicant may be required to submit an acceptable file type that the U.S. Copyright Office can access. The Office will not establish an effective date of registration until the Office receives a file type that can be opened and examined by a registration specialist. The currently acceptable file formats are listed on the Office’s website at www.copyright.gov/eco/help-file-types.html.
If an applicant submits an online application and the work does not meet the requirements listed above, the applicant must submit deposit copy(ies) in a physical format. Likewise, applicants who submit a paper application must submit the deposit copy(ies) in a physical format by mail, courier, or hand delivery (not electronically). For a discussion of the procedure for submitting the deposit copy(ies) in physical format, see Section 204.3(B) below.
204.3(B) Deposit Copy(ies) Submitted in Physical Format
Physical deposit copies should be submitted to the U.S. Copyright Office by mail, courier, or hand delivery if (i) the work does not meet the requirements listed in Section 204.3(A), (ii) the applicant is submitting a paper application rather than an online application, or (iii) if the applicant prefers to submit the deposit copy(ies) in a physical format rather than a digital format.
When completing an online application, the applicant will be given an opportunity to print a deposit copy shipping slip that corresponds to the online application. The applicant must print the shipping slip, attach it to each deposit copy, and send all of these items in a single package to the address specified on the shipping slip. (For further information concerning this procedure, see Chapter 600, Section 625.2(D) and Chapter 1500, Sections 1508.2 through 1508.5.) In such cases, the effective date of registration is based on the date the Office receives the deposit copy(ies) along with the corresponding shipping slip. If an applicant does not include the shipping slip with each mailed physical deposit the Office will not be able to connect the deposit to an application.
When submitting a paper application, an applicant should send the completed application, proper filing fee, and complete and clear deposit copy(ies) in a single Chapter 200 13 12/22/2014 package to the address specified in space 9 marked “Mail To,” which may be found at the bottom of every paper application.
The applicant should not provide any private or confidential information in the application that is not required for registration. All of the information that the applicant provides in the application is a permanent part of the public record, and the U.S. Copyright Office generally cannot remove any information from the public record once a registration has been issued.
Section 705(a) of the Copyright Act requires the Register of Copyrights to prepare and maintain “records of deposits, registrations, recordations, and other actions” taken by the Office. 17 U.S.C. § 705(a). Section 705(b) states that all records maintained by the Office in connection with a completed copyright registration “shall be open to public inspection.” 17 U.S.C. § 705(b).
The Office will make the information provided in the application available to the general public upon request, and much of this information will be available on the Internet through the Office’s online database. For an example of the type of information that is typically displayed in the Office’s online database, see www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-privacy.html.
Before submitting an application, an applicant should consider whether to include a birth date, nickname, alias, or other personal information that is not required for registration. For example, providing the name, address, telephone number, and email address of the person who should be contacted for permission to use the work is optional, and the Office will accept an application even if an applicant leaves the Rights and Permissions section blank. Although an applicant is encouraged to provide contact information for rights and permission purposes, it is important to understand that if the applicant completes this portion of the application, the Office will include this information in the online database.
If an applicant wants to provide contact information for persons who may be interested in using the work — but does not want to provide a home address or other personal information — the applicant should consider providing the name of a designated agent, a post office box, or a designated email address in the Rights and Permissions field of the application.
206 General Overview of the Examination Process
Once the U.S. Copyright Office receives the application, deposit copy(ies), and filing fee, the application and deposit copy(ies) will be sent to the Registration Program, where together they will be assigned to a registration specialist. The specialist will examine these materials to determine whether the work constitutes copyrightable subject matter and if the applicant has met the other legal and formal requirements, including those set forth in the Copyright Act, the Copyright Office regulations, and the Compendium of U.S.Chapter 200 14 12/22/2014
Copyright Office Practices. See 17 U.S.C. § 410(a). For detailed information on this process, see Chapter 600.
207 Special Handling
Special handling is a procedure for expediting the examination of an application to register a claim to copyright. There is an additional fee for this expedited service. See www.copyright.gov/docs/fees.html.
The U.S. Copyright Office offers this service in certain circumstances where a copyright owner or other interested parties have a compelling reason for an expedited decision on a pending application. Special handling may be requested for an online application or a paper application in the following circumstances:
- Pending or prospective litigation;
- Customs matters; or
- Contract or publishing deadlines that necessitate the expedited issuance of a certificate of registration.
Once it has received and approved a request for special handling, the Office will make every attempt to process the application within five business days, although the Office cannot guarantee that it will process all special handling applications within that time frame, particularly if the claims present issues requiring correspondence.
For detailed information on special handling, see Chapter 600, Section 623.
208 Withdrawing an Application
An applicant may submit a request to withdraw a pending application at any time before the U.S. Copyright Office has issued a certificate of registration or has refused to register the claim. The request should be made in writing, it should explain why the applicant is seeking to withdraw the claim, and it should be sent to the following address:
Associate Register of Copyrights and Director of Registration Policy and Practice
Registration Program U.S. Copyright Office 101 Independence Avenue SE Washington, DC 20559
The Office will use its discretion to decide whether to approve or deny a timely withdrawal request. In making this decision, the Office will balance the interest of the applicant with the public interest in maintaining the integrity of the registration record. The Office does not routinely grant withdrawals, particularly where the request is made merely to avoid a refusal to register.Chapter 200 15 12/22/2014
In the event that the Office approves a withdrawal request, the Office will not refund the filing fee and will not return the deposit copy(ies). The Office will not reinstate an application once it has been withdrawn. If the applicant wishes to resubmit the claim, the applicant must file a new application, new deposit copy(ies), and the correct filing fee. The effective date of registration for a new claim will be based on the date that the new submission is received by the Office.
209 The Certificate of Registration and the Effective Date of Registration
If the applicant appears to meet the legal and formal requirements, the U.S. Copyright Office will register the claim. The Office will issue a certificate of registration which contains much of the information that the applicant provided in the application. In addition, the Office will create an online public record for the registration, which may be accessed through the Office’s online database. See 17 U.S.C. § 410(a).
Both the certificate and the online public record contain a registration number and an effective date of registration. The effective date of registration is the date on which the Office received an acceptable application, complete deposit copy(ies), and the proper filing fee. See 17 U.S.C. § 410(d). For detailed information on this topic, see Chapter 600, Section 625.
210 Registration Refused After Examination
The U.S. Copyright Office registers claims to copyright and issues certificates of registration only when an applicant appears to meet the legal and formal requirements.
If the Office finds that an applicant has not met the legal requirements for copyright registration, the Office will refuse to register the claim and will specify the reasons for its decision. The Office will notify the applicant by sending a written communication to the address provided in the Correspondent field/space of the application. For examples of situations in which the Office will refuse to register a claim because of a failure to meet the legal and/or formal requirements, see Chapter 600, Section 608.
An applicant may appeal a refusal to register a copyright claim. For more information on the appeals process, see Chapter 1700.
An applicant may institute a civil suit for copyright infringement even if the Office has refused to register a claim, provided that the applicant satisfies the requirements set forth in Section 411(a) of the Copyright Act. For information concerning this topic, see Chapter 1700, Section 1706.Chapter 200 16 12/22/2014
211 General Policies Regarding Inaccuracies and Misrepresentations
211.1 Material Misrepresentations
Knowingly making a false representation of a material fact in an application for copyright registration, or in any written statement filed in connection with the application, is a crime that is punishable under 17 U.S.C. § 506(e).
211.2 Immaterial Inaccuracies in the Application
As a general rule, the registration specialist may ignore immaterial inaccuracies in the application that appear to be inadvertent and do not affect the registrability of the claim. For information concerning the U.S. Copyright Office’s practices and procedures for dealing with inaccuracies in an application, see Chapter 600, Section 603.
211.3 Minor Substantive Errors Found Post-Registration
If the information set forth in the registration record is incorrect or incomplete, an applicant may be able to correct that error or omission by submitting an application for a supplementary registration, or under certain limited circumstances, by submitting a new application for a new basic registration. For a discussion of these procedures, see Chapter 1800, Sections 1802 and 1803.
If the U.S. Copyright Office discovers a minor substantive error in the registration record, it may attempt to correct that error through a procedure known as a referral. For a general discussion of this procedure, see Chapter 1800, Section 1804.
211.4 Major Substantive Errors Found Post-Registration
If the U.S. Copyright Office discovers a major substantive error in the registration record, it may contact the applicant to correct the error, or it may cancel the registration if warranted under the Office’s cancellation regulations. For a discussion of cancellation, see Chapter 1800, Section 1806.
212 The Registration Process at a Glance
The following chart illustrates the registration process from start to finish:Chapter 200 17 12/22/2014