With respect to a work published before January 1, 1978, copyright was secured, or the right to secure it was lost, except for works seeking ad interim copyright, at the date of publication, i.e., the date on which copies are first placed on sale, sold, or publicly distributed, depending upon the adequacy of the notice of copyright on the work at that time. The adequacy of the copyright notice for such a work is determined by the copyright statute as it existed on the date of first publication.
If before January 1, 1978, publication occurred by distribution of copies or in some other manner, without the statutory notice or with an inadequate notice, as determined by the copyright statute as it existed on the date of first publication, the right to secure copyright was lost. In such cases, copyright cannot be secured by adding the notice to copies distributed at a later date.
Works first published abroad before January 1, 1978, other than works for which ad interim copyright has been obtained, must have borne an adequate copyright notice. The adequacy of the copyright notice for such works is determined by the copyright statute as it existed on the date of first publication abroad.
(b) Defects in notice.
Where the copyright notice on a work published before January 1, 1978, does not meet the requirements of title 17 of the United States Code as it existed on December 31, 1977, the Copyright Office will reject an application for copyright registration. Common defects in the notice include, among others the following:
The notice lacks one or more of the necessary elements (i.e., the word “Copyright,” the abbreviation “Copr.”, or the symbol ©, or, in the case of a sound recording, the symbol ©; the name of the copyright proprietor, or, in the case of a sound recording, the name, a recognizable abbreviation of the name, or a generally known alternative designation, of the copyright owner; and, when required, the year date of publication);
The elements of the notice are so dispersed that a necessary element is not identified as a part of the notice; in the case of a sound recording, however, if the producer is named on the label or container, and if no other name appears in conjunction with the notice, his name will be considered a part of the notice;
The notice is not in one of the positions prescribed by law;
The notice is in a foreign language;
The name in the notice is that of someone who had no authority to secure copyright in his name;
The year date in the copyright notice is later than the date of the year in which copyright was actually secured, including the following cases:
Where the year date in the notice is later than the date of actual publication;
Where copyright was first secured by registration of a work in unpublished form, and copies of the same work as later published without change in substance bear a copyright notice containing a year date later than the year of unpublished registration;
Where a book or periodical published abroad, for which ad interim copyright has been obtained, is later published in the United States without change in substance and contains a year date in the copyright notice later than the year of first publication abroad:
Provided, however, That in each of the three foregoing types of cases, if the copyright was actually secured not more than one year earlier than the year date in the notice, registration may be considered as a doubtful case.
A notice is permanently covered so that it cannot be seen without tearing the work apart;
A notice is illegible or so small that it cannot be read without the aid of a magnifying glass: Provided, however, That where the work itself requires magnification for its ordinary use (e.g., a microfilm, microcard or motion picture) a notice which will be readable when so magnified, will not constitute a reason for rejection of the claim;
A notice is on a detachable tag and will eventually be detached and discarded when the work is put in use;
A notice is on the wrapper or container which is not a part of the work and which will eventually be removed and discarded when the work is put to use; the notice may be on a container which is designed and can be expected to remain with the work;
The notice is restricted or limited exclusively to an uncopyrightable element, either by virtue of its position on the work, by the use of asterisks, or by other means.
[24 FR 4956, June 18, 1959; 24 FR 6163, July 31, 1959, as amended at 37 FR 3055, Feb. 11, 1972; 46 FR 33249, June 29, 1981; 46 FR 34329, July 1, 1981; 60 FR 34168, June 30, 1995; 66 FR 34373, June 28, 2001; 66 FR 40322, Aug. 2, 2001]