Guide to Card Catalog Indexes


Locating Copyright Registrations

Under the 1909 copyright law that was effective through 1977, a work could be registered in one of 15 different classes, depending on its nature (for example, book, drama, painting). The cards in the card catalog contain five key elements that establish the history of any original registration. These elements are: • the title of the work • the author or authors • the claimant or claimants, that is, the owner(s) of the copyright, who may be different from the author(s) • the date of publication, the day on which copyright protection commenced, or the date of receipt for unpublished works, and • the registration number, which is a letter (depending on the classification) followed by from one to seven digits Any work by a U.S. national published or registered before January 1, 1964, must have been renewed by an application for registration in the 28th year following the original date of publication or registration to continue its term of protection. However, copyrights in works registered or published between January 1, 1964, and December 31, 1977, have an automatic renewal for a full 95-year term of protection. Although the period of protection is automatically renewed, a renewal application may be submitted anyway. If the work in question is more than 27 years old and less than 95 years old, a renewal registration consists of all the following: • the title and author(s) of the original work • the renewal claimant or claimants • the date on which the second term of protection commenced, and • the renewal registration number, which is the letter R or the letters RE followed by from one to six digits Since January 1, 1978, when the 1976 Copyright Act went into effect, copyright registrations have been cataloged by entering the appropriate information into an electronic database. All the elements described for paper formats of catalogs in the previous paragraph are also entered into the database. However, the number of classes has been reduced, with different letter codes preceding the digits. In addition, the record now distinguishes among the date of creation (the year in which the work was fixed in its form), the date of publication (public distribution) where applicable, and the effective date of registration (when the copy or copies of the work, the fee, and the application were received in the Copyright Office). Instructional material and computer terminals are available in the card catalog area to enable the researcher to retrieve information from the online database.


Registrations

The 1971-1977 index covers copyright registrations for all classes of works made within this time period. Generally, there are three (or more) catalog cards for each work registered: Title of the Work, one (1) card for each Author, and one (1) card for each Claimant. Link to Card Layout sample PDF file


The 1955-1970 index covers copyright registrations for all classes of works made within this time period. Generally, there are three (or more) catalog cards for each work registered: Title of the Work, one (1) card for each Author, and one (1) card for each Claimant. Link to Card Layout sample PDF file


The 1946-1954 index covers copyright registrations for all classes of works made within this time period. Generally, there are three (or more) catalog cards for each work registered: Title of the Work, one (1) card for each Author, and one (1) card for each Claimant. Link to Card Layout sample PDF file


This time-period contains two separate indexes. Once index contains the applications for works registered within the time-period, organized by numerically by type of work (e.g. A=book). The index cards, the second index, are arranged alphabetically in one file and cover all classes of material registered. Cards were made for claimant, author, joint author, title, source author and source title (for works based on an earlier work), translator, original claimant (for renewal registrations), and the name of any other person who appears to have responsibility for the creation of the work. Carbon copies of registration or renewal cards may not contain all the information included on the original card. This file includes Commercial Prints and Labels dating from July 1, 1940, when the Copyright Office took over registration of this type of work from the Patent Office. Applications filed during this time-period are captured in a separate "Applications" index bundled with the bibliographic index. Link to Card Layout sample PDF file


There is very little title indexing for books during this time period. The book author index is complete for books that were selected for The Library of Congress collection. However, the author index in general cannot be considered reliable since some registrations by author-claimants are listed in the book claimant index only. Included are entries for domestic and foreign books and published dramas for which the Library printed catalog cards. Title entries are included for foreign periodicals and for works having no well-defined author, such as composite works, anonymous works and serials. Pamphlets, leaflets, circulars and other works of this nature were not generally included in this index and were entered in the claimant index.


The book claimant index is the most thorough index for books in this period. Most works for which copyright is claimed by the author are located in this file only. The book claimant index consists of an alphabetical arrangement of entries by claimant names. From January 1, 1898 - June 30, 1909 copyright data is presented on proprietor cards. From July 1, 1909-November 6, 1937, entries are actual card applications.


The music author and title index covering the period 1898 through 1937 is an incomplete listing of music titles and includes entries under selected composers’ names. Access by composer is limited; there are no entries under lyricists’ names.Some musical dramas are included in this index. The music claimant index is the most complete and reliable index covering this period. It is an alphabetical index of the original application forms filed by the name of the claimant.


The graphic arts claimants index includes maps, charts, chromos, lithographs, engravings, cuts, prints, photographs, fine arts, original works of art, reproductions, drawings or plastic works of scientific or technical character and pictorial illustrations. Title, subject, and author cards are included for some entries but there is no general author or title index to the material in these classes.


Different cataloging rules were followed for different classes and periods of time, so the information on the cards will vary accordingly. Where many entries are entered under one claimant, the arrangement is usually alphabetical by title, however some claimant cards will list hundreds of items for which there is no title. The graphic arts artists and title index is an incomplete finding tool which may be useful in determining the name of a copyright claimant, if one is searching for a well-known artist or work of art.


1909-1937 – Periodicals Claimant, Renewals Claimant, Renewals Claimant Title, and Dramas & Lectures Claimant

This time period contains several separate indexes including: Author and Title index for Dramatic Works, Periodicals, and Renewals.


The author and title index covering the period from 1909-1937 contains titles of all dramatic works registered during this period. If the author of the drama was well known, a cross reference card under the author's name may refer to the claimant of the drama. The claimant index for dramas from 1909-1937 is an alphabetical list of all claimants of dramas registered during this period. Some registrations for musical dramas will be found in the music title index, 1898-1937.


The periodical claimant index covering the time period from 1909-1937 is the most complete for periodicals during this time period. It can only be accessed by the name of the copyright claimant for the periodical. In most cases, the publisher of the periodical is also the claimant of the periodical. When the copyright claimant is not known, the title searched as a name may be used in locating the registration, for example, title New York Times, claimant name, New York Times Company.


Entries for renewals made prior to July 1, 1909 were interfiled with registrations in the appropriate year and class index. Renewals from 1909 through 1937 are indexed by claimant, title, and depending on the class of work being renewed, author. Renewal author and title index, 1919-1937 includes entries for renewal registrations in music, drama and periodicals listed under the title. Renewal registrations for books are usually entered under the author's name. Beginning in late 1937, all renewals were interfiled with registrations in the appropriate index.


1898-1908 – Periodicals Claimant Title

The combined periodical claimant and title index, covering the time period from 1898-1909, contains claimant and title cards interfiled alphabetically. The claimant card usually contains more information relating to the run of the periodical and the registration numbers. There are some title cards through 1924 in this file. Some periodicals during this time period were registered in class A and will be filed in the book claimant index.


Link to Card Layout sample PDF file


This index covers all categories of copyright registrations and contains author, claimant and title cards that are interfiled alphabetically. The entries under name of the author usually contain the year of registration (no month and date), entry number and the title. Sometimes the claimant and type of material are given. Claimant cards are usually similar to the author cards, but in some cases, only the year date and entry number are given. The claimant cards are considered to be a complete index of entries but cards for authors and titles were not consistently made. Research will be most complete if the name of the copyright claimant is known.


Once an entry number has been located in the card file, it is then necessary to refer to the Record Books for the complete facts of registration. From 1870 until sometime around 1894, application for copyright was made by letter. Copyright records that were recorded in District Courts prior to 1870 have been collected and are maintained in the Rare Book Room of The Library Of Congress.


Some cards contain a number of entries under one heading, while others cover one entry only. When several entries are listed on one card, the entries usually appear chronologically by year.


Title cards in this index often list multiple entries for works whose titles begin with the same word. The titles are listed chronologically and the beginning word is not repeated for each entry. Occasionally the beginning word is the first key word of a title, not the actual first word. The number of entries under the key word may run into the thousands with no sub-arrangement other than by date of receipt.


Many claimant cards contain only year dates and entry numbers of works that are fully indexed under author or title. This was done in order to provide a full listing of entries claimed by a person or corporate body. Entries of this type also cover periodicals published by a given publisher. In this case, the periodical title appears at the top of the card along with the name of the claimant and constitutes the only entry for the periodical.


Prior to July 1, 1909, renewals were in the form of a new registration covering a period 14 years and are found in the same sequence of entry numbers for the relevant index. Care must be taken not to confuse renewal registrations prior to 1909 with original registrations. The Copyright Act of March 4, 1909 provided for the further renewal and extension of existing copyright by extending the renewal term from 14 to 28 years.


This means that the existing copyright for any work at the time this act went into effect could be renewed and extended to the full term of 28 years upon expiration of the term in effect on March 4, 1909.


The indexes after 1897 were divided by administrative class, for example, books, music, graphic arts, and by points of access (author, title claimant). These early files are also not completely indexed. There is very little indexing by title for books; periodicals can only be located by searching the claimant name from 1909-1937; there are some incomplete title files for periodicals during this time period.


Link to Card Layout sample PDF file



Assignments

The Assignment Title index contains only title cards that pertain to works in which assignment documents have been recorded. The cards are arranged alphabetically. If several cards have the same title, these cards are arranged by the name of the assignor. Link to Card Layout sample PDF file

The Assignee index contains the names, either personal or corporate, of the party in the agreement who is the recipient of the transfer. Names are arranged alphabetically by name of the assignee, and chronologically under the name with the latest date first by date of receipt of the document. Link to Card Layout sample PDF file


The Assignor index contains the names, either personal or corporate, of the party in the agreement who is making the transfer, commitment or declaration. Names are arranged alphabetically by name of the assignee, and chronologically under the name with the latest date first by date of receipt of the document. The assignor is the name of the party. Link to Card Layout sample PDF file


The combined assignee/assignor index contains both the names of the party in the agreement who is the recipient of the transfer, and the party who is making the transfer. When the same name appears as the assignor and assignee the assignor cards precede the assignee. The assignor cards are arranged in chronological order by dare of receipt of the document with the most recent date first. Link to Card Layout sample PDF file


Other Indexes

Prior to 1978, a notice was filed by the claimant of copyright in a musical composition when he had recorded his own composition or had licensed it for recording on mechanical instruments. The basic information required for filing this notice was the title of the work and the name of the claimant. Notice of use entries also supply the date that the notice was received in the Copyright Office and the volume of the record book and page on which it was recorded. Beginning in 1952, notices of use were interfiled with registrations. No notices of use were accepted by the Copyright Office after December 31, 1977. Link to Card Layout sample PDF file


Under Section 115 (b) of the copyright law, once phonorecords of a musical composition have been distributed to the public in the United States under the authority of the copyright claimant, any other person may obtain a compulsory license to make and distribute records of the work. If the claimant cannot be identified or address established in the records of the Copyright Office, the person seeking the compulsory license may file a notice of intention to use with the Copyright Office 30 days prior to distribution. Information provided on the intention to use entry includes title, name of the filer, name of the copyright claimant, date of receipt of notice and the volume of the record book the notice was filed in. Link to Card Layout sample PDF file


Notices of use from 1909 through 1952 are located in separate title and claimant files; from 1953 through 1977 they are interfiled in the card catalog under title and claimant only. Link to Card Layout sample PDF file


Notices of use from 1909 through 1952 are located in separate title and claimant files; from 1953 through 1977 they are interfiled in the card catalog under title and claimant only. Link to Card Layout sample PDF file


The term commercial prints and labels refers to single page works that contain copyrightable pictorial matter, text, or both, and that are published in connection with the sale or advertisement of articles of merchandise. From August 1, 1874 to July 1, 1940, prints and labels were registered at the Patent Office. On July 1, 1940 jurisdiction over the registration of these works was transferred to the Register of Copyrights. Records compiled prior to this date were transferred to the Copyright Office, with the exception of the assignment documents and indexes which are still located at the Patent Office.


The Commercial prints and labels claimant index gives a serial number for each entry and indicates whether the work was registered as a print or as a label. Search under this serial number in the Serial number Register will indicate the registration number or whether registration was ever made. The registration number will in turn lead to the certificate which is in a bound volume of either prints or labels. Link to Card Layout sample PDF file


There is an incomplete periodical title index covering the period 1919-1941 which does not include the facts of registration but may include information regarding the possible claimant, or remitter. Some periodicals during this time period were registered in class A and will be filed in the book claimant index.

This small file is informational in nature and is a record of pseudonyms used prior to 1938. After 1938 references for pseudonyms were interfiled in the appropriate time period/index in the card catalog.


DISCLAIMER

This Proof of Concept is a demonstration of a potential Virtual Card Catalog to validate its feasibility and to verify that the concept has a practical potential use for the public. The images are presented in this virtual card catalog in the exact filing order as found in the physical card catalog and may contain filing errors and corrupt images. This Proof of Concept does not replace or supersede existing search practices established by the United States Copyright Office and the results should not be relied on for legal matters. For information on searching Copyright Records, refer to the circular “How to Investigate the Copyright Status of a Work.” If you would like to request removal of personal information from the Virtual Card Catalog please refer to the circular “Privacy: Copyright Public Records.”