[Federal Register: March 21, 1997 (Volume 62, Number 55)]
[Page 13715-13722]



Copyright Office
[Docket No. 97-2]

Registration Procedures

AGENCY: Copyright Office, Library of Congress.

ACTION: Notice of inquiry.


SUMMARY: The Copyright Office issues this Notice of Inquiry to seek 
information relating to the proposed adoption of a different design for 
certificates of registration issued through the Copyright Office 
Electronic Registration, Recordation,  Deposit System (CORDS). The 
considerable additional time and cost to program software to create 
certificates which identically reproduce the paper-based

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system led the Copyright Office to consider alternatives.

DATES: Comments should be received on or before April 21, 1997.

ADDRESSES: Interested parties should submit 15 copies of their written 
comments to the Office of the General Counsel, Copyright GC/IR, P.O. 
Box 70400, Southwest Station, Washington, D.C. 20024. Comments 
delivered by hand should be submitted to the Office of the General 
Counsel, Copyright Office, James Madison Memorial Building, Room 403, 
First Street and Independence Avenue, S.E., Washington, D.C. 20559-

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Marilyn J. Kretsinger, Assistant 
General Counsel, or Kent Dunlap, Principal Legal Advisor, Copyright GC/
IR, P.O. Box 70400, Southwest Station, Washington, D.C. 20024. 
Telephone: (202) 707-8380. Telefax: (202) 707-8366.


1. Background

    One of the most significant responsibilities assigned to the 
Copyright Office by Title 17 of the U.S. Code is the registration of 
copyright claims. Sections 408-412 generally set forth the nature of 
the registration system. Central to the administration of this system 
is the issuance of certificates of registration, which are legal 
documents providing evidence of the validity of the copyright claim and 
the underlying facts.
    The content of the application is determined by section 409, 
enumerating ten items of information relevant to the copyright claim 
and granting the Register of Copyrights discretion to require 
additional information.
    Sections 410(a) and (c) primarily determine the nature of the 
certificate of registration. Section 410(a) authorizes the Register of 
Copyrights after examination to issue ``a certificate of registration 
under the seal of the Copyright Office'' containing ``the information 
given in the application, together with the number and effective date 
of the registration.'' Section 410(c) provides: ``In any judicial 
proceedings the certificate of a registration made before or within 
five years after first publication of the work shall constitute prima 
facie evidence of the validity of the copyright and of the facts stated 
in the certificate. The evidentiary weight to be accorded the 
certificate of a registration made thereafter shall be within the 
discretion of the court.''

2. The CORDS Registration System

    The Copyright Office has always manually handled all of the 
materials submitted for copyright registration. A goal of CORDS is to 
develop and test an electronic system for copyright registration with 
copyright applications and copies of works transmitted in digital form 
over communications networks, such as the Internet. Signatures on these 
CORDS electronic claims will be digital rather than handwritten.
    CORDS has been under development since 1993, as a joint project of 
the U.S. Copyright Office and the Library of Congress, working with the 
Corporation for National Research Initiatives (CNRI). Developing the 
testbed system with support from the Defense Advanced Research Projects 
Agency (DARPA) and the Library of Congress, CNRI is leading a national 
effort with the Copyright Office to develop an infrastructure for 
linking digital works. The Office proved the concept of CORDS 
electronic copyright registration and deposit with its initial test in 
1996 using computer science technical reports from Carnegie Mellon 
University. Additional tests with other partners are planned for 1997.
    CORDS will allow applicants to submit copyright applications and 
deposit their digitized works electronically. Claimants will prepare 
their applications, attach deposit materials in machine-readable 
format, ``sign'' their submissions using public key/private key 
encryption technology, and transmit applications and deposits to the 
Copyright Office over the Internet using Privacy Enhanced Mail.
    The CORDS system will interface with three existing Copyright 
Office automated systems--COINS (the Copyright Office in-process 
tracking system), COPICS (Copyright Office Publication and Interactive 
Cataloging System) and CIS (the Copyright Imaging System, which 
produces copyright registration certificates). The new CORDS system 
automatically enters information into COINS (the tracking system), the 
remitter's deposit account is debited for the filing fee, and an in-
process tracking record (giving the status of the application, fee, and 
deposit) is created, all electronically.
    In addition, using CORDS, the Copyright Office staff will complete 
examination and cataloging of the digital applications and works and 
enter data into COPICS (the cataloging system). Registration 
certificates will be issued through the Copyright Imaging System (CIS). 
The Office's digital repository will hold these digital copyright 
deposits in a secure and verifiable manner.
    In future test phases over the next few years, the Copyright Office 
will work with several other small groups of representative copyright 
owners. Subsequent phases of CORDS testing will receive and process 
selected applications and deposits in other formats of copyrighted 
works starting with a limited number of published textual works, some 
with graphics, then images, sound recordings, video, and other formats. 
These tests and modification phases will continue while the Internet 
environment itself is maturing.

3. The Current Process for Certificate

    From 1978 to 1993, internal processing of applications and creation 
of certificates was done by hand. After the Examining Division cleared 
the claim for registration, a registration number was stamped on the 
application. A certificate was then created by photocopying the 
numbered application onto ``certificate paper,'' paper printed with the 
Copyright Office seal and the signature of the Register of Copyrights 
appearing in the upper left corner. The certificate was then mailed to 
the applicant. See Copyright Office Announcement, Changes in 
Registration Procedures Effective January 1, 1978, ML-171. (Nov. 1977).
    Since 1993, portions of the numbering and certification process 
have been automated. The numbering clerk enters the In-Process Number 
by wand; the system generates barcoded registration number labels that 
are placed on the application and deposit. The clerk then scans the 
numbered application into the Copyright Imaging System (CIS), which 
records a digital image of the application. CIS interfaces with COINS 
to verify the availability of the fee and record the registration 
number assigned to the claim. The system transmits the image to a 
printer, which reproduces the image onto the ``certificate paper.'' The 
certificate is mailed to the applicant.

4. CORDS Certificates

    The Office originally envisioned that certificates issued under 
CORDS would be identical to certificates issued through the paper-based 
system. In developing the system, however, programming problems in 
designing certificates that would accommodate the variations in classes 
of works made this goal costly to achieve. Therefore the Office 
designed a certificate which is identical to the current certificate in 
certain standard fields but which allows flexibility in other fields of 
information to accommodate the variations in

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classes of works and information provided by the applicant.
    The certificates produced from CORDS registration records would 
therefore be different in appearance than those produced from paper 
applications. All information provided by the applicant will be 
included in the certificate, in accordance with section 410(a) of the 
copyright law. However, where an item of non-essential information, 
such as a ``previous or alternative title,'' is not provided by the 
applicant, the heading for that information would not appear. Headings 
for essential information, such as the ``publication date,'' would 
appear even if left blank by the applicant. The information would be 
presented in the same sequence in the CORDS certificates, but the 
individual fields would vary in length to optimize space and to keep 
all of the information of one type together (e.g., all titles listed 
together, all authors listed together, all claimants listed together). 
This system would also alleviate the need for continuation pages.
    Two sample CORDS TX certificates reproduced as Appendix A and 
Appendix B illustrate the principles described above. Appendix A 
represents a simple claim and Appendix B a complicated claim that would 
have required a continuation sheet if filed using a printed form. 
Certain standard items, e.g., location of the seal, registration and 
effective date, and certificate address would appear in the same areas 
as they do on the printed forms.

5. Scope of Public Comments

    The Copyright Office is interested in receiving public comments on 
domestic or international difficulties, if any, in the Office's plan 
for issuing such certificates of registration under CORDS.


    Dated: March 18, 1997.
Marybeth Peters,
Register of Copyrights.


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[FR Doc. 97-7210 Filed 3-20-97; 8:45 am]