17 U.S. Code § 408 - Copyright registration in general
Permissive Registration. Under section 408(a), registration of a claim to copyright in any work whether published or unpublished, can be made voluntarily by “the owner of copyright or of any exclusive right in the work” at any time during the copyright term. The claim may be registered in the Copyright Office by depositing the copies, phonorecords, or other material specified by subsection (b) and (c), together with an application and fee. Except where, under section 405(a), registration is made to preserve a copyright that would otherwise be invalidated because of omission of the notice, registration is not a condition of copyright protection.
Deposit for Purpose of Copyright Registration. In general, and subject to various exceptions, the material to be deposited for copyright registration consists of one complete copy or phonorecord of an unpublished work, and two complete copies or phonorecords of the best edition in the case of a published work. Section 408(b) provides special deposit requirements in the case of a work first published abroad (“one complete copy or phonorecord as so published”) and in the case of a contribution to a collective work (“one complete copy or phonorecord of the best edition of the collective work”). As a general rule the deposit of more than a tear sheet or similar fraction of a collective work is needed to identify the contribution properly and to show the form in which it was published. Where appropriate as in the case of collective works such as multivolume encyclopedias, multipart newspaper editions, and works that are rare or out of print, the regulations issued by the Register under section 408(c) can be expected to make exceptions or special provisions.
With respect to works published in the United States, a single deposit could be used to satisfy the deposit requirements of section 407 and the registration requirements of section 408, if the application and fee for registration are submitted at the same time and are accompanied by “any additional identifying material” required by regulations. To serve this dual purpose the deposit and registration would have to be made simultaneously; if a deposit under section 407 had already been made, an additional deposit would be required under section 408. In addition, since deposit for the Library of Congress and registration of a claim to copyright serve essentially different functions, section 408(b) authorizes the Register of Copyrights to issue regulations under which deposit of additional material, needed for identification of the work in which copyright is claimed, could be required in certain cases.
Administrative Classification. It is important that the statutory provisions setting forth the subject matter of copyright be kept entirely separate from any classification of copyrightable works for practical administrative purposes. Section 408(c)(1) thus leaves it to the Register of Copyrights to specify “the administrative classes into which works are to be placed for purposes of deposit and registration,” and makes clear that this administrative classification “has no significance with respect to the subject matter of copyright or the exclusive rights provided by this title.”
Optional Deposit. Consistent with the principle of administrative flexibility underlying all of the deposit and registration provisions, subsection (c) of section 408 also gives the Register latitude in adjusting the type of material deposited to the needs of the registration system. The Register is authorized to issue regulations specifying “the nature of the copies of phonorecords to be deposited in the various classes” and, for particular classes, to require or permit deposit of identifying material rather than copies or phonorecords, deposit of one copy or phonorecord rather than two, or, in the case of a group of related works, a single rather than a number of separate registrations. Under this provision the Register could, where appropriate, permit deposit of phonorecords rather than notated copies of musical compositions, allow or require deposit of print-outs of computer programs under certain circumstances, or permit deposit of one volume of an encyclopedia for purposes of registration of a single contribution.
Where the copies or phonorecords are bulky, unwieldy, easily broken, or otherwise impractical to file and retain as records identifying the work registered, the Register would be able to require or permit the substitute deposit of material that would better serve the purpose of identification. Cases of this sort might include, for example, billboard posters, toys and dolls, ceramics and glassware, costume jewelry, and a wide range of three-dimensional objects embodying copyrighted material. The Register’s authority would also extend to rare or extremely valuable copies which would be burdensome or impossible to deposit. Deposit of one copy or phonorecord rather than two would probably be justifiable in the case of most motion pictures, and in any case where the Library of Congress has no need for the deposit and its only purpose is identification.
The provision empowering the Register to allow a number of related works to be registered together as a group represents a needed and important liberalization of the law now in effect. At present the requirement for separate registrations where related works or parts of a work are published separately has created administrative problems and has resulted in unnecessary burdens and expenses on authors and other copyright owners. In a number of cases the technical necessity for separate applications and fees has caused copyright owners to forego copyright altogether. Examples of cases where these undesirable and unnecessary results could be avoided by allowing a single registration include the various editions or issues of a daily newspaper, a work published in serial installments, a group of related jewelry designs, a group of photographs by one photographer, a series of greeting cards related to each other in some way, or a group of poems by a single author.
Single Registration. Section 408(c)(2) directs the Register of Copyrights to establish regulations permitting under certain conditions a single registration for a group of works by the same individual author, all first published as contributions to periodicals, including newspapers, within a twelve-month period, on the basis of a single deposit, application, and registration fee. It is required that each of the works as first published have a separate copyright notice, and that the name of the owner of copyright in the work, (or an abbreviation by which the name can be recognized, or a generally known alternative designation of the owner) is the same in each notice. It is further required that the deposit consist of one copy of the entire issue of the periodical, or of the entire section in the case of a newspaper, in which each contribution is first published. Finally, the application shall identify each work separately, including the periodical containing it and its date of first publication.
Section 408(c)(3) provides under certain conditions an alternative to the separate renewal registrations of subsection (a). If the specified conditions are met, a single renewal registration may be made for a group of works by the same individual author, all first published as contributions to periodicals, including newspapers, upon the filing of a single application and fee. It is required that the renewal claimant or claimants, and the basis of claim or claims under section 304(a), is the same for each of the works; that the works were all copyrighted upon their first publication, either through separate copyright notice and registration or by virtue of a general copyright notice in the periodical issue as a whole; that the renewal application and fee are received not more than twenty-eight or less than twenty-seven years after December 31 of the calendar year in which all of the works were first published; and that the renewal application identifies each work separately, including the periodical containing it and its date of first publication.
Corrections and Amplifications. Another unsatisfactory aspect of the present law is the lack of any provision for correcting or amplifying the information given in a completed registration. Subsection (d) of section 408 would remedy this by authorizing the Register to establish “formal procedures for the filing of an application for supplementary registration,” in order to correct an error or amplify the information in a copyright registration. The “error” to be corrected under subsection (d) is an error by the applicant that the Copyright Office could not have been expected to note during its examination of the claim; where the error in a registration is the result of the Copyright Office’s own mistake or oversight, the Office can make the correction on its own initiative and without recourse to the “supplementary registration” procedure.
Under subsection (d), a supplementary registration is subject to payment of a separate fee and would be maintained as an independent record, separate and apart from the record of the earlier registration it is intended to supplement. However, it would be required to identify clearly “the registration to be corrected or amplified” so that the two registrations could be tied together by appropriate means in the Copyright Office records. The original registration would not be expunged or cancelled; as stated in the subsection: “The information contained in a supplementary registration augments but does not supersede that contained in the earlier registration.”
Published Edition of Previously Registered Work. The present statute requires that, where a work is registered in unpublished form, it must be registered again when it is published, whether or not the published edition contains any new copyrightable material. Under the bill there would be no need to make a second registration for the published edition unless it contains sufficient added material to be considered a “derivative work” or “compilation” under section 103.
On the other hand, there will be a number of cases where the copyright owner, although not required to do so, would like to have registration made for the published edition of the work, especially since the owner will still be obliged to deposit copies or phonorecords of it in the Copyright Office under section 407. From the point of view of the public there are advantages in allowing the owner to do so, since registration for the published edition will put on record the facts about the work in the form in which it is actually distributed to the public. Accordingly, section 408(e), which is intended to accomplish this result, makes an exception to the general rule against allowing more than one registration for the same work.
The date of enactment of this subsection, referred to in subsec. (f)(1), is the date of enactment of Pub. L. 109–9, which was approved Apr. 27, 2005.
2005—Subsec. (f). Pub. L. 109–9 added subsec. (f).
1992—Subsec. (a). Pub. L. 102–307 substituted “At any time during the subsistence of the first term of copyright in any published or unpublished work in which the copyright was secured before January 1, 1978, and during the subsistence of any copyright secured on or after that date,” for “At any time during the subsistence of copyright in any published or unpublished work,”.
1988—Subsec. (a). Pub. L. 100–568, § 9(a)(1), substituted “Such” for “Subject to the provisions of section 405(a), such”.
Subsec. (c)(2). Pub. L. 100–568, § 9(a)(2), substituted “the following conditions:” for “all of the following conditions—”, struck out subpar. (A) which read “if each of the works as first published bore a separate copyright notice, and the name of the owner of copyright in the work, or an abbreviation by which the name can be recognized, or a generally known alternative designation of the owner was the same in each notice; and”, and redesignated subpars. (B) and (C) as (A) and (B), respectively.
Amendment by Pub. L. 102–307 effective June 26, 1992, but applicable only to copyrights secured between January 1, 1964, and December 31, 1977, and not affecting court proceedings pending on June 26, 1992, with copyrights secured before January 1, 1964, governed by section 304(a) of this title as in effect on the day before June 26, 1992, except each reference to forty-seven years in such provisions deemed to be 67 years, see section 102(g) of Pub. L. 102–307, as amended, set out as a note under section 101 of this title.
Amendment by Pub. L. 100–568 effective Mar. 1, 1989, with any cause of action arising under this title before such date being governed by provisions in effect when cause of action arose, see section 13 of Pub. L. 100–568, set out as a note under section 101 of this title.