U.S. Copyright Office
Library of Congress
Copyright Registration

The Copyright Office registered and cataloged more than a half million claims for copyrighted works during fy 2002, despite the effects of anthrax incidents on Capitol Hill mail and the subsequent postal disruption which hampered the flow of claims into the Office. The Office received 526,138 claims to copyright covering more than 800,000 works and registered 521,041 claims.

The Office worked diligently to improve the timeliness of its registrations and to decrease the time needed to make an online record of registrations available. Major progress was made in the Cataloging Division, which reduced its level of registrations awaiting cataloging from 183,204 to 78,379, a reduction of 57 percent. This was accomplished through a combination of processing changes and work efficiencies including assigning staff to catalog in areas other than their own to address specific backlogs, establishing specific target levels, and using overtime. The Examining Division completed its major effort, begun in February 2001, to reduce the number of claims awaiting examination. The goal of this effort was to reduce the processing time for a copyright registration from receipt of the application to issuance of a certificate and to reduce the amount of unexamined claims on hand to four weeks of receipts by the end of the calendar year. The new automated statistical database system, the Examining Production System (EPS), implemented in 2001, provided daily logs of the individual claims processed, resulting in more accurate information of progress toward the goal. Although the Office held a significant mail backlog, as of September 2002 the number of unprocessed claims on hand in the Examining Division had been reduced by 75 percent.

Copyright-Related Registrations

Mask Works

Mask works are defined in the Semiconductor Chip Protection Act of 1984 as a series of related images, however fixed or encoded, (1) having or representing the predetermined three-dimensional pattern of metallic, insulating, or semiconductor material present or removed from the layers of a semiconductor chip product; and (2) in which series the relation of the images to one another is that each image has the pattern of the surface of one form of the semiconductor chip product.

Mask works registered this fiscal year totaled 508.

Design Registrations

Vessel Hulls

The Vessel Hull Design Protection Act was signed into law on October 28, 1998, as part of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The vessel hull law grants an owner of an original vessel hull design certain exclusive rights, provided that application for registration of the design with the Copyright Office is made within two years of the design being made public. Vessel hull deposit material may consist either of drawings or photographs of the design.

The Office registered 34 vessel hull designs this fiscal year.

Appeals of Denial of Registration

Under title 17, the Register of Copyrights may determine that the material deposited for copyright registration does not constitute copyrightable subject matter or that the claim is invalid for other reasons. In such cases, the Register refuses registration and notifies the applicant in writing of the reason(s) for such refusal. Applicants whose claims for registration are rejected can appeal such decisions in a two-stage process. The first appeal is made to the Examining Division. If the Division upholds the refusal, a second appeal may be made to the Copyright Office Board of Appeals, consisting of the Register of Copyrights, the General Counsel, and the Chief of the Examining Division.

From October 2001 through September 2002, the Division handled 191 first appeals covering 395 claims. Of the 395 initial rejections, 14 percent were reversed upon first appeal. The Copyright Office Board of Appeals met four times during the fiscal year and heard 15 requests for reconsideration involving 44 works. The Board issued decisional letters responding to 14 second appeals involving 26 works, registering two works and upholding the refusal to register the other 24.


The copyright law requires that the Register of Copyrights keep records of all deposits, registrations, recordations, and other copyright-related matters, such as renewals, to make these records available to the public, and to prepare indexes of all the records. The Cataloging Division records a bibliographic description and the copyright facts of all works registered in the Copyright Office. The Division also creates a record for all documents submitted for recordation.

Use of Copyright Office Cataloging Records in the Library of Congress

Records of copyright registrations are important, not only to users and owners of copyrighted works, but also throughout the Library of Congress:

Portions of copyright cataloging data are included in bibliographic records for cartographic materials, prints, photographs, and moving images.

The Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound (MBRS) Division retrieves copyright records for pop, rock, jazz, and nonmusical sound recordings for possible conversion to the Library of Congress Integrated Library System (ILS). MBRS permanently retains motion picture data sheets and descriptions created in the Copyright Office and files them by registration number. Reference staff regularly search copyright cataloging records for retrospective holdings not yet in the ILS.

The Music Division shelves published sheet music received via copyright deposit according to copyright registration number, using the copyright cataloging record as a finding aid.

The Cataloging Distribution Service distributes copyright cataloging records to subscribers, including fee-based online information services with sophisticated data searching methods.

The Cataloging Division received 520,752 registrations in fy 2002 and created cataloging records for 578,658, including 23,109 submitted electronically through the CORDS system.

The Division also processed online service providers’ designations of agents. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act amended the copyright law to provide limitations for service provider liability for infringement of copyright relating to online files. New subsection 512(c) of the copyright law provides limitations on service provider liability with respect to information that a user may place on a system or network that the service provider controls or operates. The limitation on liability is applicable if the service provider has designated an agent for notification of claimed infringement by providing contact information to the Copyright Office and through the service provider’s publicly accessible website. A directory of agents is maintained on the Office website. During fy 2002, 644 interim designations of agent were posted.

The Division also catalogs claims for vessel hulls. By the end of the fiscal year, 36 vessel hull design registrations and four distinctive identification submissions (logos) had been processed.

Contributions to Library of Congress Collections

Copies of works submitted for registration under section 408 of title 17, or for mandatory deposit under section 407, may be selected by the Library of Congress for its collections. Since 1870, copyright deposits have formed the core of the Library’s “Americana” collections, and they continue to serve as the mint record of American creativity.

During the fiscal year, the Copyright Office transferred to the Library of Congress for its collections 896,504 copies of registered and unregistered works valued at $31,302,048.

Home  |  Contact Us  |  Legal Notices  |  Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)  |  Library of Congress

U.S. Copyright Office
101 Independence Ave. S.E.
Washington, D.C. 20559-6000
(202) 707-3000