Requirements and Instructions for Completing and Submitting Notices of Noncommercial Use (NNUs)

Effective May 9, 2019, the Copyright Office accepts Notices of Noncommercial Use (NNU). An NNU is a special type of document that users may file to become eligible for a safe harbor allowing certain noncommercial uses of sound recordings fixed before February 15, 1972 (“Pre-1972 Sound Recordings”) that are not being commercially exploited. To qualify for this exemption, a user must file an NNU proposing a specific noncommercial use of a Pre-1972 Sound Recording after conducting a good faith, reasonable search to determine that the sound recording is not being commercially exploited. The NNU is then indexed into the Copyright Office’s online database, and the rights owner of the sound recording must not object to the use within 90 days by filing an opt-out notice (“Pre-1972 Opt-Out Notice”).

If the rights owner files a Pre-1972 Opt-Out Notice within 90 days, the user may not take advantage of the safe harbor for the proposed use of the Pre-1972 Sound Recording in the NNU. Depending on the proposed use, however, other exceptions and limitations may still be available to a prospective user, such as fair use and the exceptions for libraries and archives under section 108.

To submit an NNU, you may pay using a credit card or a deposit account with the Office. To pay using a deposit account, at the time of your filing it must contain sufficient funds to pay all applicable fees in total (information about deposit accounts can be found in 37 CFR 201.6(b) and Circular 5).

Conducting a Good Faith, Reasonable Search Before Filing an NNU

A user desiring to make noncommercial use of a Pre-1972 Sound Recording should progressively search in each of the categories below until the user finds the sound recording (i.e., if the user finds the sound recording in a search category, the user need not search the subsequent search categories). If the user does not find the Pre-1972 Sound Recording after searching the categories below, her search is sufficient for purposes of the safe harbor in 17 U.S.C. 1401(c)(4), establishing that she made a good faith, reasonable search without finding commercial exploitation of the sound recording by or under the authority of the rights owner. The categories are:

  1. The Copyright Office’s database of Pre-1972 Schedules;
  2. One of the following major search engines: Google, Yahoo!, or Bing;
  3. One of the following major streaming services: Amazon Music Unlimited, Apple Music, Spotify, or TIDAL;
  4. YouTube, for authorized uses;
  5. The SoundExchange ISRC database
  6., and, and if the pre-1972 sound recording is of classical music or jazz, searching a smaller online music store that specializes in product relative to that niche genre, namely: ArkivJazz, ArkivMusic, Classical Archives, or Presto; in either case, to determine whether the pre-1972 sound recording is being offered for sale in download form or as a new (not resale) physical product; and
  7. In the case of ethnographic Pre-1972 Sound Recordings of federally recognized Alaska Native or American Indian tribes, searching through contacting the relevant tribe, association, and/or holding institution. If you do not have such contact information, you should use the information provided by the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Tribal Leaders directory, which provides contact information for each federally recognized tribe.

For purposes of the safe harbor in section 1401(c), a user cannot rely on a search conducted by a third party who is not the user’s authorized agent.

Regarding the search step of a major search engine, a reasonable search for commercial exploitation does not require an exhaustive reading of every webpage returned as a result of the search. Depending on the specific search results, it may be reasonable for the user to search more than 1-2 pages (although in many cases these first pages will likely be sufficient). The purpose of the search engine search is to determine whether the Pre-1972 Sound Recording is being commercially exploited (i.e., by being offered for sale in download form or as a new (not resale) physical product, or through a streaming service), and not simply whether the internet includes webpages discussing the recording, such as musicological, historical, or other commentary about the work.

After conducting a good faith, reasonable search to determine that the sound recording is not being commercially exploited, a user is encouraged, although not required, to save documentation (e.g., screenshots, list of search terms) of her search for at least three years in case her search is challenged.

Required Documents to File an NNU

You must submit a:
  • Cover Sheet.
  • An NNU consisting of an Excel spreadsheet containing the information required by 37 CFR 201.37 that conforms to the Office’s Excel spreadsheet template.

The cover sheet and NNU template can be found in the Related Information box to the right. Failure to submit either a cover sheet or an NNU may result in rejection of your filing.

The cover sheet is a fillable PDF form that allows the Office to connect your NNU with your contact information and fee payment information. It should be completed in conformity with the following requirements:

  • A separate cover sheet should accompany each NNU you file;
  • All fields in the cover sheet are required;
  • All information provided in the cover sheet should match the information provided in the corresponding NNU; and
  • The fees specified in the cover sheet must be calculated in accordance with 37 CFR 201.3(c). The current fee is $50 per NNU.

The cover sheet will not be posted on the Office’s public website.

The NNU must be created using the Excel spreadsheet template provided by the Office, so that the Office can index the information in the NNU into a public database. It should contain all the information required by the template in accordance with 37 CFR 201.37, including:

  • The user’s full legal name, and whether the user is an individual person or corporate entity, including whether the entity is a tax-exempt organization as defined under the Internal Revenue Code. Additional contact information, including an email address, may be optionally provided.
  • The title and featured artist(s) of the Pre-1972 Sound Recording desiring to be used.
  • If any are known to the user, the current or last-known rights owner (e.g., record label), alternate artist name(s), alternate title(s), album title, and International Standard Recording Code (ISRC). If a sound recording has multiple alternate title names or album titles, or if the featured artist has an alternate artist name or names, they must be separated by semicolons (e.g., Sweet Sweet Baby; Since You’ve Been Gone).
  • You may also include additional optional information, such as version or year of release for each sound recording.
  • The name of the individual actually submitting the NNU to the Office (either the user or the user’s duly authorized agent) typed into the certification required by 37 CFR 201.37(d)(2) (in row 3 of the template).
  • A description of the proposed noncommercial of the sound recording, including how the Pre-1972 Sound Recording will be used, the start and end dates of the use, and where the proposed use will occur in the United States. You may include additional optional information, such as the title of the project, how much of the sound recording will be used, whether any visuals will accompany use of the sound recording (e.g., using the sound recording in a video), and how you will credit the sound recording title, featured artist, and/or rights owner of the sound recording.
  • An NNU may not include proposed use for more than one Pre-1972 Sound Recording unless all of the sound recordings include the same featured artist(s) and were released on the same pre-1972 album or other unit of publication. In the case of pre-1972 “greatest hits” or compilation albums, all of the sound recordings listed on an NNU must also share the same record label or other rights owner information. A “unit of publication” exists where multiple works are physically bundled or packaged together and first published as an integrated unit. See Circular 34 for more information. If the NNU lists more than one Pre-1972 Sound Recording, they must be listed and separated by semicolons in the “title” field, and you must provide the current or last-known rights owner and album title for the sound recordings.  

NNUs will be made available through the Office’s public online database.

Considerations Before Filing Your NNU

  • The Copyright Office does not verify the validity or accuracy of information in NNUs, so you should not rely on information contained in NNUs filed by third parties (other than your authorized agent), or assume that the proposed use in an indexed NNU is, in fact, noncommercial.
  • You should not rely on an NNU filed by a third party (who is not your authorized agent), to which the rights owner does not file an opt-out notice, as evidence that a Pre-1972 Sound Recording is not being commercially exploited, or that the rights owner consents to certain proposed noncommercial use of the sound recording.  You must conduct your own good faith, reasonable search before filing an NNU.
  • Even if the rights owner does not object to your proposed noncommercial use within 90 days by filing an opt-out notice, other copyrighted works embodied in the Pre-1972 Sound Recording you want to use, such as the musical composition, may require separate copyright clearance to use the sound recording.
  • If you want to file an NNU proposing noncommercial use of a foreign Pre-1972 Sound Recording, you should proceed cautiously before relying on the noncommercial use exception.  Certain foreign Pre-1972 Sound Recordings have copyright protection under title 17, and the noncommercial use exception may not apply. See Circular 38B for more information.

Requirements for Submitting Your NNU

Please send your completed submission to the Copyright Office via email to [email protected]. If electronic submission of your NNU is not feasible due to lack of access to a computer and/or the internet, please contact the Office using the contact information below for special instructions.Each submission email should conform to the following requirements:

  • Each email should contain attachments of both a cover sheet and a corresponding NNU;
  • Each cover sheet and NNU pair should be emailed separately (no email should contain more than one cover sheet or NNU);
  • The NNU must be emailed as an Excel file, and must not be converted to PDF or any other file format;
  • The cover sheet and NNU must not be locked or have any protections or restrictions in place (other than what has already been locked by the Office in the template made available on this page); and
  • All emails must be smaller than twenty megabytes.

What to Expect After Submission of NNUs

Shortly after you have submitted the requisite materials, you will receive an email confirming that your submission has been received by the Office. If your submission complies with the procedural requirements detailed above, the applicable fees will be deducted from the specified deposit account or charged to your credit card, and you will be sent an email confirming that your NNU has been successfully filed with the Office. Next, your NNU will indexed into the Office’s public records and be made publicly available through the Office’s online database.

Please note that the Office does not analyze NNUs for legal sufficiency. The Office does review NNUs, however, to confirm that the correct form has been used, that all required information has been provided and is legible, and that the NNUs have been properly certified.

If your submission fails to comply with the Office’s procedural requirements, you will receive an email stating that your submission has been rejected and an explanation of the defect(s).

If you have any questions, please contact the Office at (202) 707-3000 or 1-877-476-0778 (toll free), or at [email protected].