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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 website.

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: COPYRIGHT LAW 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
Copyright Office
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,

7) For a work that is an underlying work such as the music of a motion picture, you must specifically request such a search and supply the specific titles involved, the authors, producers, and approximate dates of the works, and
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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