Compendium II: Copyright Office Practices - Chapter 100

Chapter 100




Outline of Topics


101 Basic policies.

102 The constitutional provision.

103 The copyright law.

104 The Copyright Office.

105 Statutory authority for examination.

106 Copyright Office Regulations.

107 The establishment, maintenance, and availability

of a public record.

108 The examination process.

108.01 Nature of examination.

108.02 Scope of examination.

108.03 Comparison of works.

108.04 Extent of copyright claims.

108.05 Factual determinations.

108.06 Adverse claims.

108.07 Rule of doubt.

108.08 Cautionary or warning letters.

108.09 Refusal to register.

108.10 Obscene or pornographic works.

108.11 Works containing classified information.

109 Communications between the applicant and the

Copyright Office.

109.01 In general.

109.02 Copyright Office communications.

109.03 Opinions and advice.

109.04 One letter concerning more than one application.

109.05 Communications from applicants.

109.06 Languages.

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Chapter 100


Outline of Topics                                                   -2 -


110 Applicants.

110.01 Minors.

110.02 Mental incompetents.

110.03 Prisoners.

110.04 Paupers.

110.05 Agents.

110.06 Attorneys.

110.07 False representation.

111 Territorial limitations.

112 Recordations and Import Statements.







101 Basic policies. Set forth below are the policies

upon which the examining and related practices of

the Copyright Office are based.


102 The constitutional provision. The Constitution

of the United States provides, in Article I,

Section 8, that the "Congress shall have Power

...To promote the Progress of Science and

useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to

Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to

their respective Writings and Discoveries."


103 The copyright law. The U.S. copyright law is

based upon the above provision of the Consti-

tution, especially as it relates to the

"Writings" of "Authors." The current copyright

law is the Copyright Act which became fully

effective on January I, 1978, including Title

17 of the United States Code, and amendments

thereof. The previous law was the Copyright

Act of 1909, as amended.


104 The Copyright Office. The copyright law provides

that all administrative functions and duties which

it imposes are, except as otherwise specified, the

responsibility of the Register of Copyrights as

director of the Copyright Office of the Library of

Congress and that the Register, together with sub-

ordinate officers and employees of the Office,

shall be appointed by the Librarian of Congress and

shall act under the Librarian's general direction

and supervision. See 17 U.S.C. 701(a). The Copy-

right Office is a department of the Library of

Congress, and the Register of Copyrights is also

Assistant Librarian of Congress for Copyright

Services. In addition to its principal function,

which is the performance of all duties relating to

the registration of copyrights, the policies and

practices of the Copyright Office are also designed

to promote the overall objectives of the Library of

Congress. See the Library of Congress Regulations,

LCR 215.







105 Statutory authority for examination. Section

410(a) of the current law specifies that when,

"after examination, the Register determines that

...the material deposited constitutes copyright-

able subject matter and that the other legal and

formal requirements. ..have been met, the

Register shall register the claim and issue to the

applicant a certificate of registration under the

seal of the Copyright Office." Section 410(b)

provides that in "any case in which the Register

of Copyrights determines that. ..the material

deposited does not constitute copyrightable subject

matter or that the claim is invalid for any other

reason, the Register shall refuse registration and

shall notify the applicant in writing of the

reasons for such refusal." Section 205(a) states

that any "transfer of copyright ownership or other

document pertaining to a copyright may be recorded

in the Copyright Office." These provisions,

together with other pertinent sections of the law,

constitute the statutory basis for the examining

and related practices of the Copyright Office.


106 Copyright Office Regulations. The Register of

Copyrights is authorized by section 702 of the

copyright law to establish, subject to the approval

of the Librarian of Congress, regulations not

inconsistent with law for the administration of

the functions and duties made the responsibility of

of the Register. The Copyright Office Regulations,

including those relating to examination, registra-

tion, and recordation, are embodied in Title 37 of

the Code of Federal Regulations.


107 The establishment, maintenance, and availability of

a public record. The foregoing constitute the

basis for the establishment and maintenance by the

Copyright Office of a reliable and useful public

record which includes all registrations of copy-

right claims and recordations of documents

pertaining to copyrights. This record is made

available to the public by the Copyright Office

through (I) the issuance of certificates of copy-

right registration which attest that registration







107 The establishment, maintenance, and availability

of a public record. (cont’d)


has been made and which may constitute prima facie

evidence of the validity of the copyright and of

the facts stated in the certificate, (2) the

publication of the Catalogs of Copyright Entries,

which provide the basic facts of registration for

all registered works, (3) the issuance of certi-

ficates certifying that transfers of copyright

ownership or other documents pertaining to copy-

rights have been recorded, (4) the issuance of

certified copies of applications, deposit copies,

documents, and various other materials submitted to

the Copyright Office in connection with registra-

tions and recordations, (5) the maintenance in the

Copyright Office of the Copyright Card Catalog, for

public use in searching for completed registrations

and recorded documents, and (6) the providing of a

Copyright Office reference service to furnish, by

means of written search reports, the facts of

registration and recordation contained in the files

of the Office. This system depends, for its

reliability and usefulness, primarily upon the

examination process.


108 The examination process. The examination process,

which is the principal means of creating and main-

taining a reliable and useful public record,

includes the examination of (I) the copies or

phonorecords of works submitted for registration,

(2) the application for registration, (3) all

other material and correspondence submitted with

the claim, and (4) copies of any copyright Office

correspondence relating to the registration of

the claim.


108.01 Nature of examination. Examination is made

to determine (I) whether or not the work for

which registration is sought constitutes copy-

rightable subject matter and (2) whether or not

the other legal and formal requirements have

been met, including those set forth in the

Copyright Office Regulations and in the Com-

pendium of Copyright Office Practices.






108 The examination process. (cont'd)


108.02 Scope of examination. The Copyright Office

registers claims to copyright whenever the

requirements of the law appear to be met.

It does not grant copyrights.


108.03 Comparison of works. The Copyright Office does

not generally make comparisons of copyright

deposits to determine whether or not particular

material has already been registered.


108.04 Extent of copyright claims. In general the

registration of a claim to copyright is con-

sidered to extend to all the component parts of

the work which are the subject matter of copy-

right and in which the applicant has the right

to claim on the basis of the particular appli-

cation under consideration. Where part of the

work was previously published or was covered by

a previous registration, the copyright claim as

reflected in the application should generally limited to the new material covered by the

claim being registered. Also, where a work ,

contains material which is unpublished and

unregistered, and where the claim does not

extend to such material, the application

should reflect this limitation in the scope

of the registration. Moreover, the coverage

of a registration cannot, subject to certain

exceptions, extend beyond the material

deposited to make that registration.


108.05 Factual determinations. In connection with

its examining and related activities, the

Copyright Office does not ordinarily make

findings of fact with respect to publication

or any other thing done outside the Copyright



108.05(a) Requests for explanation. The Copyright

Office reserves the right to request, in

appropriate cases, explanations of state-

ments made by an applicant.






108 The examination process. (cont'd)


108.05 Factual determinations. (cont'd)


108.05(b) Administrative notice. The Copyright

Office may take notice of matters of

general knowledge. It may use such knowl-

edge as the basis for questioning applica-

tions that appear to contain or be based

upon inaccurate or erroneous information.


108.06 Adverse claims. The sequence of receipt in

the Copyright Office of separate claims by two

or more applicants plays no part in determining

registrability. Where the Copyright Office is

aware that two or more persons or organizations

are adversely claiming copyright in, and are

seeking separate registrations for, the same

material, the Office may inform each applicant

of the existence of the other claim(s) and

inquire concerning the basis of each claim.

All such claims will be registered if they are

reasserted and if they are in order as con-

firmed by the response to the Copyright Office

inquiry. The Copyright Office does not conduct

"opposition" or "interference" proceedings such

as those provided by the Federal trademark and

patent laws.


108.07 The rule of doubt. The Copyright Office will

register the claim even though there is a

reasonable doubt about the ultimate action

which might be taken under the same circum-

stances by an appropriate court with respect

to whether (I) the material deposited for

registration constitutes copyrightable subject

matter or (2) the other legal and formal

requirements of the statute have been met.


108.08 Cautionary or warning letters. When regis-

tration is made under the rule of doubt, the

copyright Office will ordinarily send a letter

to the applicant cautioning that the claim may

not be valid and stating the reason: and such

letter may warn, where appropriate, that the






108 The examination process. (cont'd)


108.08 Cautionary or warning letters. (cont'd)

problem may exist for future works and point

out how it can be avoided. The Office may

send the letter and withhold the application

until specifically authorized by the applicant

to make registration, or it may make registra-

tion before sending the letter.


108.09 Refusal to register. The Copyright Office will

not register a claim where (I) the material

deposited does not constitute copyrightable

subject matter or (2) the claim is invalid for

any other reason. See also section 108.07

above concerning the rule of doubt. The Office

will notify the applicant in writing of the

reasons for such refusal.


108.10 Obscene or pornographic works. The Copyright

Office w111 not ordinari1y attempt to examine a

work to determine whether it contains material

that might be considered obscene or pornographic.


108.11 Works containing classified information. When,

in examining or processing materials received

in the Copyright Office, it is noted that such

material contains, or reasonably appears to

contain, information classified by the U.S.

Government for such reasons as national defense

or national security, (1) the appropriate

security official of the Library of Congress

should be immediately notified through super-

visory channels, (2) the material should be

held or disposed of in accordance with

instructions from that official, and (3) the

examination or other processing of the material

by the Copyright Office should be suspended

until the matter is resolved.


109 Communications between the applicant and the Copy-

right Office. Communications between the Copyright

Office and applicants may be by letter or other

written means, by telephone, or by personal inter-








109 Communications between the applicant and the Copy-

right Office. (cont'd)


109.01 In general. As a general policy the Copyright

Office may register claims without communica-

ting with the applicant whenever possible. The

Copyright Office will communicate with the

applicant before registration only when the

claim as a whole is not in substantial compli-

ance with the practices of the Copyright Office

as reflected in this Compendium.


109.02 Copyright Office communications. All Copyright

Office communications should be clear in meaning,

concise in statement, and polite in tone.


109.03 Opinions and advice. Copyright Office communi-

cations that result from the examination of

claims should be limited to questions concern-

ing registration and related matters. They

should conform to the general policy of the

Copyright Office by avoiding the expression of

opinions or the offer of advice on such matters

as the rights of persons in connection with

contracts or alleged infringements. Also,

there should be no offer or undertaking to

resolve disputes concerning conflicting claims

to copyright or similar matters. See section

108.06 above, concerning adverse claims.


109.04 One letter concerning more than one applica-

tion. When more than one application is sub-

mitted to the Copyright Office by an applicant

in one package, the Office will ordinarily

attempt to deal in a single letter with all of

those applications which require correspon-

dence, rather than produce a separate letter

for each one. Also, the Office may deal in

one letter with materials received separately

from a single applicant.


109.05 Communications from applicants. The Copyright

Office will generally-consider all statements

and materials submitted by applicants. However,

any abusive or scurrilous written materials





109 Communications between the applicant and the Copy-

right Office. (cont'd)


109.05 Communications from applicants. (cont'd)


directed to the Office or any of its employees

will be returned unanswered: see 37 C.F.R.

201.2(c)(4). Similarly, Copyright Office

employees will terminate any conversation

or interview, if an applicant makes abusive

or scurrilous statements, or engages in

threatening behavior.


109.06 Languages. The Copyright Office will ordi-

narily write to applicants only in the English

language and will ordinarily conduct conver-

sations and interviews with applicants only in

English. As a general rule, the Office is

willing to entertain applications and record

documents that are in languages other than

English, and to deal with correspondence from

applicants which is in a language other than

English. In special cases, however, the Office

may require the submission of an English

translation of statements on applications,

documents, or correspondence before it takes



110 Applicants. The applicant for registration may

be the author or other copyright claimant, or the

owner of exclusive right(s) in the work. Moreover,

a duly authorized agent may apply for registration

on behalf of such author, claimant, or owner.


110.01 Minors. The author, claimant, or owner can

be a minor, even though State law may regulate

or control business dealings involving minors.

The Copyright Office will generally accept an

application submitted either by a minor or by

the minor's parents or guardian, if it is

otherwise in order.


110.02 Mental incompetents. The author, claimant,

or owner can be a mentally incompetent person.

If a committee or guardian has been appointed

for a person adjudged to be incompetent, such

committee or guardian should generally serve

as agent of the applicant.






110 Applicants. (cont'd)


110.03 Prisoners. The author, claimant or owner can

be an inmate of a prison or other penal insti-

tution. The Copyright Office will generally

accept an application submitted by such a

person as applicant, if it is otherwise in



110.04 Paupers. There is no provision of law which

requires or permits the waiver or reduction of

the registration fee or any other registration

requirement of the copyright law on the grounds

that the applicant is a pauper or is otherwise



110.05 Agents. Any duly authorized agent may act on

behalf of the applicant. The Copyright Office

will generally accept the statement of a person

that he or she is acting as the agent of the

author, claimant, or owner. However, the

Office may, in special cases, request such

agent to submit documentation showing that he

or she is empowered to act for the author,

claimant, or owner. Where such author,

claimant, or owner is other than a natural

person (for example, where a corporate entity

is the claimant), the application must be sub-

mitted by a natural person acting as agent.

The name of a corporate entity or other organi-

zation is not acceptable as the signature of

the applicant or agent unless it is accompanied I

by the signature of a natural person authorized

to sign on behalf of such entity or organiza-



110.06 Attorneys. The Copyright Office does not

require that the author, claimant, or owner

be represented by an attorney, although the

Office may suggest in special cases that the

applicant consider seeking the advice of an

attorney. No special qualifications or test

is imposed on lawyers as a condition to dealing

with the Copyright Office.





110 Applicants. (cont'd)


110.07 False representation. The copyright law pro-

vides that any person who knowingly makes a

false representation of a material fact in an

application for registration, or in any written

statement filed in connection with an appli-

cation, shall be guilty of a criminal offense

and shall be fined not more than $2,500. See

17 U.S.C. 506(e).


111 Territorial limitations. The U.S. copyright law

has no extraterritorial effect in that generally

its provisions with respect to infringement extend

only to violations occurring in the United States.

Since the practices of the Copyright Office spring

solely from the U.S. law, ordinarily the Compendium

of Copyright Office Practices deals only with U.S.

copyright, unless it expressly states otherwise.


112 Recordations and Import Statements. The basic

policies set forth above also apply, with some few

alterations and exceptions, to the recordation of

transfers of copyright ownership and other docu-

ments pertaining to copyrights, and to requests for

the issuance of Import Statements. See Chapter

1200: MANUFACTURING PROVISIONS, and Chapter 1500: