[Federal Register: October 7, 1996 (Volume 61, Number 195)]
[Page 52465-52467]



Copyright Office
[Docket No. 96-5]

Publication of Catalog of Copyright Entries

AGENCY: Copyright Office, Library of Congress.

ACTION: Notice of policy decision.


SUMMARY: Under section 707(a) of the Copyright Act, the Copyright 
Office is directed to publish a catalog of copyright entries at 
periodic intervals. The Copyright Office has determined that this 
statutory obligation is satisfied by electronic publication of 
copyright information over the Internet. For this reason, the Copyright 
Office is discontinuing its publication of microfiche copies of the 
Catalog of Copyright Entries.

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 7, 1996.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Kent Dunlap, Principal Legal Advisor 
to the General Counsel's Office, Copyright GC/IR, P.O. Box 70400, 
Southwest Station, Washington, D.C. 20024. Telephone: (202) 707-8380. 
Telefax: (202) 707-8366.


I. Background

    The 1891 Copyright Act initiated a Catalog of Copyright Entries 
(CCE). The purpose of the catalog was to provide a means for customs 
officers to prevent importation of pirated copyrighted works. The 1891 
Act split responsibility for publishing the catalog between the 
Librarian of Congress and the Secretary of the Treasury. Copyright Act 
of 1891, sec. 4, 26 Stat. 1106, 1108 (1891).
    The catalog did not provide an efficient means for customs 
searching; therefore, the Secretary of the Treasury saw little use in 
continuing publication. The Register of Copyrights, on the other hand, 
defended the publication in 1904 for a number of reasons. He reasoned 
that the CCE provided a useful index to copyright businesses and the 
public without recourse to the Office; a useful reference tool for the 
staff of the

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Copyright Office; a secure record against destruction by fire or other 
catastrophe; and an official contemporaneous record of the country's 
intellectual production. He also stated that the cost of the catalog 
could be defrayed through registration fees. H.R. Doc. No. 420, 58th 
Cong., 2d Sess. 6 (1904).
    The 1909 Copyright Act consolidated responsibility for publication 
of the catalog in the Copyright Office. Copyright Act of 1909, Pub. L. 
No. 349, secs. 56, 57, 35 Stat. 1075, 1086. From 1909 to 1936, the 
Copyright Office regarded the Catalog of Copyright Entries as the 
primary tool for the public to conduct research on registered 
copyrights since the public was not encouraged to use Office facilities 
and Copyright Office staff did not conduct requested searches of any 
length. During the subsequent years, there was a reduced budget for 
publication of the catalog; consequently, the number of staff preparing 
the catalog was reduced, and entries were shortened. However, beginning 
in 1937, the Office provided a more extended search service and 
reorganized the records to make searching more efficient. In 1945, a 
general reorganization of the Copyright Office improved both the search 
service and the content and timeliness of the catalog. Elizabeth K. 
Dunne and Joseph W. Rogers, Copyright Law Revision Studies No. 21, 86th 
Cong., 2d Sess., The Catalog of Copyright Entries, 59-60 (Comm. Print 
    Since its inception the catalog has been published as a public 
service. There have always been relatively few sales, and the catalog 
has been distributed free to federal depository libraries. These 
libraries were largely public, university and college libraries which 
were designated by Members of Congress as being entitled to receive 
free government documents. Due to the number of such free 
distributions, costs incurred from publishing the catalog have been 
considerably larger than revenue from sales to subscribers. In 1959, 
for example, 37 copies of the Books part of the CCE were sold while 359 
were distributed to federal depository libraries, and 85 were given to 
U.S. government agencies. Id. at 64.

II. The 1976 Copyright Revision Act

    As part of the general copyright revision, the Copyright Office 
conducted 34 studies for Congress on the copyright law; Study No. 21 
published in 1960, was devoted to the catalog of copyright entries. 
Both professional librarians and copyright practitioners commented; 
commentators generally supported continuation of the publication with 
some reservations. Considerations favoring continued publication 
included the fact that a few individuals and organizations found the 
publication to be highly useful, and alternative avenues for searching 
copyright information outside of Washington were not readily available. 
Reservations included acknowledgement that the publications were not 
widely used by the public at large and publication appeared relatively 
expensive. In conclusion, most commentators urged a ``flexible'' 
approach. Elizabeth K. Dunne and Joseph W. Rogers, Copyright Law 
Revision Studies No. 21, 86th Cong., 2d Sess., The Catalog of Copyright 
Entries, 77-81 (Comm. Print 1960).
    In his report to Congress in 1961 summing up the problems to be 
considered in drafting a new copyright statute, the Register of 
Copyrights noted:

    Only a small fraction of the cost of producing the printed 
catalog is recovered from sales. In 1959, for example, the total 
cost of assembling, printing, and binding the entire yearly catalog 
came to about $109,000, while receipts from the year's sales totaled 
slightly over $4,000. Most of the copies printed are distributed 
free of charge to libraries and Government agencies.

House Comm. on the Judiciary, 87th Cong., 1st Sess., Report of the 
Register of Copyrights on the General Revision of the U.S. Copyright 
Law 144 (Comm. Print 1961).
    During the revision process others concurred with the Register that 
the rigid requirements of the 1909 Act for publication of the catalog 
should be alleviated and that ``a more flexible authorization to 
determine the form and frequency of publication of each part of the 
catalog is highly desirable.'' Supplementary Report of the Register of 
Copyrights on the General Revision of the U.S. Copyright Law: 1965 
Revision Bill, 89th Cong., 1st Sess. 155 (H. Comm. Print 1965). During 
the early stages of the revision process a far simpler provision 
intended to encourage a more flexible approach was put forward:

    (a) CATALOG OF COPYRIGHT ENTRIES.--The Register of Copyrights 
shall compile and publish at periodic intervals catalogs of all 
copyright registrations. These catalogs shall be divided into parts 
in accordance with the various classes of works, and the Register 
has discretion to determine, on the basis of practicability and 
usefulness, the form and frequency of publication of each particular 

17 U.S.C. 707(a). This provision remained unchanged throughout the 
revision process.
    Congress emphasized the theme of flexibility, and even mentioned 
``electronic devices'' as possibly leading to a better product in the 
legislative history accompanying the 1976 revision bill. It noted:

    Section 707(a) of the bill retains the present statute's basic 
requirement that the Register compile and publish catalogs of all 
copyright registrations at periodic intervals, but 
provides''discretion to determine, on the basis of practicability 
and usefulness, for the form and frequency of publication of each 
particular part''. This provision will in no way diminish the 
utility or value of the present catalogs, and the flexibility of 
approach, coupled with use of the new mechanical and electronic 
devices now becoming available, will avoid waste and result in a 
better product.

S. Rep. No. 473, 94th Cong., 1st Sess. 154 (1975); H.R. Rep. No. 1476, 
94th Cong., 2d Sess. 172 (1976).

III. Copyright Office Budget Constraints

    Despite the authorization for continued publication of the catalog 
in the copyright law, the Office has been unable to meet this 
responsibility on a timely basis due to increasing budget constraints. 
In 1982, the Office changed the format of publication of the catalogs 
from print to microfiche and issued the eight parts of the 1979 edition 
in that format. Since 1982, delays in issuing the catalog have 
increased. Currently, the Office is essentially fourteen years behind; 
it published the 1982 edition in microfiche in 1994 and that has been 
the last issue to date.
    The major cost in producing the CCE is that of creating a master 
copy from which microfiche copies can be produced. The costs are 
between $2,500 and $5,000 per master for each part of the catalog. 
Since each year consists of eight parts, a complete edition would cost 
approximately between $35,000 and $40,000. Costs for Copyright Office 
staff who prepare the material for microfilming must also be 
considered. In 1991, the Office estimated that it would cost over 
$268,000 to publish the volumes between 1982 and 1991.
    The Office has maintained the CCE volumes published so far; some of 
which are identified in Circular 2, Publications on Copyright, as 
available for sale. The volume of sales has been quite low. Should the 
Office resume publication in print or microfiche, as many as 1500 
federal depository libraries and government agencies would be entitled 
to free copies. Although not all of those entitled to receive free 
copies elect to receive all or any part of the catalog, a heavy 
printing burden would be imposed on the Office.

IV. On-Line Availability of Copyright Registration Information

    Despite the existing lengthy publication delay, there has been 

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public comment that the CCE is not delivered on a timely basis, 
indicating that relatively few people currently rely on the published 
CCE to secure copyright registration information.
    While the Copyright Office has maintained public records since 
1870, the information has never been so readily and widely available 
before. This is due to the fact that in 1994 the Copyright Office 
inaugurated remote public access via Internet to its computerized 
database of post 1977 copyright registration and recordation 
information. Public information on how to use the registration system, 
including forms and circulars, was included as part of the on-line 
    The registration information and recorded documents which are 
available over Internet are limited to Copyright Office records 
produced in machine-readable form from January 1, 1978, to the present. 
These include the following files: COHM, which contains all original 
and renewal registrations except serials; COHD, which contains 
documents; and COHS, which contains serials. Locating information 
through on-line searches of the record eliminates the need to search 
individual volumes of the published CCE and is, therefore, far more 

V. Conclusion

    While the Copyright Office has historically been assigned the 
responsibility of creating and maintaining a public record of copyright 
registration information, the Office has had difficulty in serving the 
needs of individuals who were unable to come to the Copyright Office. 
Since the Catalog of Copyright Entries addressed this need, it 
maintained some level of support within the copyright community. The 
Office is now providing broad public access on a timely basis via 
Internet, and there is no longer any reason for maintaining publication 
of the Catalog of Copyright Entries.
    Publication of the catalog has always been quite costly due to the 
low volume of sales. Moreover, publication of the catalog serves 
relatively few people since existence of the catalog is not widely 
known, and only a few hundred copies of each edition of the catalog is 
distributed. Individuals with access to the Internet, on the other 
hand, number in the millions; therefore, making copyright registration 
information available over the Internet is a far more efficient means 
for publicly disseminating copyright registration information.
    The Office has determined that the language of section 707(a) of 
the Copyright Act is sufficiently flexible to authorize publishing 
copyright registration information over the Internet. The legislative 
history of this section emphasizes flexibility and actually mentions 
``electronic devices'' as a suitable means for enhancing distribution 
efficiency. For these reasons, the Copyright Office is discontinuing 
publication by print or microfiche of the Catalog of Copyright Entries 
and will meet its responsibilities under 17 U.S.C. 707(a) through 
publication over Internet. The Office will continue to maintain the 
volumes of CCE printed so far.

    Dated: September 30, 1996.
Marilyn J. Kretsinger,
Acting General Counsel.
[FR Doc. 96-25345 Filed 10-4-96; 8:45 am]