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A copyright search is a search of the Copyright Office
databases to investigate whether a work is under copyright protection.
The Copyright Office searchable databases are available to search
online at the Copyright Office
Since the Copyright Office databases do
not contain all relevant information to the status of a copyright,
a search of their databases can only be used as a starting point.
For example, their databases may not include information concerning
assignments or other relevant documents. Therefore, their databases
cannot be used for determining the current ownership of a copyright.
Also, their databases are not up to the
minute as there is a lag time of several months between the time
a work is registered and the time it is published online. See Cross-links:
under "Registration of Copyright," "Documents Pertaining
to Copyright," and "Copyright Office."
The Copyright Office will also perform
searches for you. They charge an hourly fee to do the search (which
does not cover any other cost that may be involved such as certificates,
photocopies, or copies of office records, etc.). You can choose
to receive the results of the search in a typewritten report or
orally via the telephone.
A request for a search or other correspondence should be addressed to:
Reference and Bibliography Section, LM-451
Library of Congress
Washington DC 20559
The request for a search should be accompanied by the Search Request Form provided by the Copyright Office and as much information as you can supply. This will help save time and therefore money (as the cost of the search is charged by the hour). Here are some suggestions of what to provide:
1) The title of the work, with as many
variants as possible,
2) The names of the authors, including pseudonyms,
3) The name of the probable owner, which if assigned, may be a publisher or producer,
4) The approximate year when the work was first published and/or registered,
5) The type of work it is (musical composition, sound recording, video recording, etc.),
6) For a work published as a part of a periodical or collection, the title of the publication, the volume or issue number or date,
8) The registration number or any other copyright data that you may already know.
As assignments are sometimes (but not always)
recorded with the Copyright Office, searches can also be made
of these documents. The Copyright Office will report the facts
as shown in their records, but will not offer any interpretation
of the content of such documents.
The Copyright Office will not search and
compare copies of works to determine questions of possible infringement
or assess how much of a work has in common with another work.
The Copyright Office cannot offer any legal
interpretations or legal counsel
of any kind.
For more information about copyright searches
you may call (202) 707-3000.
Also remember that under current law a work displaying the copyright notice
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