The United States Copyright Office
, a part of the Library of Congress
The Library of Congress is the research library of the United States Congress, de facto national library of the United States, and the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States. Located in three buildings in Washington, D.C., it is the largest library in the world by shelf space and...
, is the official U.S. government body that maintains records of copyright registration
The purpose of copyright registration is to place on record a verifiable account of the date and content of the work in question, so that in the event of a legal claim, or case of infringement or plagiarism, the copyright owner can produce a copy of the work from an official government...
in the United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...
. It is used by copyright title searchers who are attempting to clear a chain of title
A chain of title is the sequence of historical transfers of title to a property. The "chain" runs from the present owner back to the original owner of the property. In situations where documentation of ownership is important, it is often necessary to reconstruct the chain of title...
for copyrighted works.
The head of the Copyright Office is called the Register of Copyrights
The Register of Copyrights is the director of the United States Copyright Office within the Library of Congress, as provided by . The Office has been headed by a Register since 1897...
. The current Register is Maria Pallante
Maria A. Pallante is the 12th United States Register of Copyrights. She was appointed Acting Register effective January 1, 2011, succeeding Marybeth Peters, who had retired effective December 31, 2010...
, who has held the office since 2011.
The Copyright Office is housed in the James Madison Memorial Building
The James Madison Memorial Building is one of three buildings that make up the Library of Congress and is part of the United States Capitol Complex. The building was constructed from 1971 to 1976, and serves as the official memorial to President James Madison...
of the Library of Congress, at 101 Independence Avenue, SE, in Washington, DC.
The United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...
gives Congress the power to enact laws establishing a system of copyright in the United States, and the Copyright Act of 1790
The Copyright Act of 1790 was the first federal copyright act to be instituted in the United States, though most of the states had passed various legislation securing copyrights in the years immediately following the Revolutionary War...
, the first federal copyright law, was enacted in May 1790 (with the first work being registered within two weeks). Originally, claims were recorded by Clerks of U.S. district courts
The United States district courts are the general trial courts of the United States federal court system. Both civil and criminal cases are filed in the district court, which is a court of law, equity, and admiralty. There is a United States bankruptcy court associated with each United States...
. In 1870, copyright functions were centralized in the Library of Congress under the direction of the then Librarian of Congress Ainsworth Rand Spofford
Ainsworth Rand Spofford was an American journalist and publisher. He was the sixth Librarian of the United States Congress from 1864 to 1897.-Early years:...
. The Copyright Office became a separate department of the Library of Congress in 1897, and Thorvald Solberg
Thorvald Solberg was the first Register of Copyrights in the United States Copyright Office. He was a noted authority on copyright and played an instrumental role in shaping the Copyright Act of 1909.-Early life:...
was appointed the first Register of Copyrights.
The mission of the Copyright Office is to promote creativity by administering and sustaining an effective national copyright system. While the purpose of the copyright system has always been to promote creativity in society, the functions of the Copyright Office have grown to include the following:
Administering the copyright law
The Office examines all applications and deposits presented for registration of original and renewal copyright claims to determine their acceptability for registration under the provisions of the copyright law. The Office also records documents related to copyright ownership.
The Copyright Office records the bibliographic descriptions and the copyright facts of all works registered. The archives maintained by the Copyright Office are an important record of America’s cultural and historical heritage. Containing nearly 45 million individual cards, the Copyright Card Catalog housed in the James Madison Memorial Building comprises an index to copyright registrations in the United States from 1870 through 1977. Records after 1977 are maintained through an online database
of more than 16 million entries.
As a service unit of the Library of Congress, the Copyright Office is part of the legislative branch of government. The Office provides copyright policy advice to Congress. At the request of Congress, the Copyright Office advises and assists the Congress in the development of national and international copyright policy; drafts legislation; and prepares technical studies on copyright-related matters.
The Compendium II: Copyright Office Practices
Compendium II: Copyright Office Practices is a manual produced by the United States Copyright Office. It is intended to be used primarily by the Copyright Office staff, as a general guide to the Copyright Office policies and procedures....
manual documents the Copyright Office's practices in its administration of copyright law.
Providing information services to the public
The Copyright Office provides public information and reference services concerning copyrights and recorded documents. The public can keep up on developments in the Copyright Office by subscribing to U.S. Copyright Office NewsNet
, a free electronic mailing list that issues periodic email messages to alert subscribers to hearings, deadlines for comments, new and proposed regulations, new publications, and other copyright-related subjects of interest. Subscribe on the Copyright Office website.
Library of Congress
In 1870, Congress passed a law that centralized the copyright system in the Library of Congress. No legislation was more important to the development of the Library than that law, which required all authors to deposit in the Library two copies of every book, pamphlet, map, print, and piece of music registered in the United States.
That partnership, created more than 130 years ago, has served the nation well. Supplying the information needs of the Congress, the Library of Congress has become the world’s largest library and the national library of America. This great repository of more than 126 million books, photographs, maps, films, documents, sound recordings, computer programs, and other items has been created largely through the operations of the copyright system, which brings deposits of every copyrighted work into the Library. In one recent year alone, the value of these deposits was more than $30 million.
The Copyright Office consults with interested copyright owners, industry and library representatives, bar associations, and other interested parties on issues related to the copyright law.
The Copyright Office promotes improved copyright protection for U.S. creative works abroad through its International Copyright Institute. Created within the Copyright Office by Congress in 1988, the International Copyright Institute provides training for high-level officials from developing and newly industrialized countries
The category of newly industrialized country is a socioeconomic classification applied to several countries around the world by political scientists and economists....
and encourages development of effective intellectual property laws and enforcement overseas.
The website has information about new copyright relevant legislation and a list of designated agent
Title II of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of the United States, known as the Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act , creates the potential role of designated agent for any ISP who files a designated agent registration with the United States Copyright Office in Washington...
s under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act is a United States copyright law that implements two 1996 treaties of the World Intellectual Property Organization . It criminalizes production and dissemination of technology, devices, or services intended to circumvent measures that control access to...
(DMCA) and the Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act
The Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act is United States federal law that creates a conditional safe harbor for online service providers and other Internet intermediaries by shielding them for their own acts of direct copyright infringement as well as...
(OCILLA) and information about Copyright Arbitration Royalty Panel
The Copyright Arbitration Royalty Panel system is a part of the United States Congress involved in making decisions regarding copyright royalties.- Panel Function :...
(CARP) system of ad hoc
copyright royalty arbitrators (now being phased out and replaced by the Copyright Royalty Board
The Copyright Royalty Board is a U.S. system of three Copyright Royalty Judges who determine rates and terms for copyright statutory licenses and make determinations on distribution of statutory license royalties collected by the United States Copyright Office of the Library of Congress...