Federal Internet Law & Policy
An Educational Project

IP: Registration

Dont be a FOOL; The Law is Not DIY

A copyright can be registered with the Library of Congress generally using Form TX ("literary material, including computer programs and databases"). Of course a problem with registering online works is that the material can constantly be in flux. LOC Circular 66 provides the following discussion:

What the registration of an online work covers

For all online works other than computer programs and databases, the registration will extend only to the copyrightable content of the work as received in the Copyright Office and identified as the subject of the claim. The application for registration should exclude any material that has been previously registered or published or that is in the public domain. For published works, the registration should be limited to the content of the work asserted to be published on the date given on the application.

Revisions and updates:

Many works transmitted online are revised or updated frequently. For individual works, however, there is no blanket registration available to cover revisions published on multiple dates. A revised version for each daily revision may be registered separately, provided the revisions constitute copyrightable authorship. A separate application and $30 filing fee would be required for each separately published update.

Online works can be registered pursuant to the following instructions in Circular 66:

To register a work transmitted online, send the following three items together in the same envelope or package to:

Library of Congress
Copyright Office
101 Independence Avenue, S.E.
Washington , D.C. 20559-6000

1. A properly completed and signed application form
2. Appropriate deposit material
3. A nonrefundable filing fee for each application in the form of a check or money order payable to Register of Copyrights

Detailed information on each of these is given below.


What Form to Use

Use the form that corresponds to the type of authorship being registered, for example:

Form TX—literary material, including computer programs and databases

Form VA—pictorial and graphic works, including cartographic material

Form PA—audiovisual material, including any sounds, music, or lyrics

Form SR—sound recording, excluding sounds accompanying an audiovisual work

Form SE—a single issue of a serial

Form SE/GROUP—a group of issues of a serial, including daily newsletters

Form GR/CP—a group of contributions to a periodical. (This form must be used in conjunction with Form TX, PA, or VA.)

If the work contains more than one type of authorship, use the form that corresponds to the predominant material.

The various classes (TX, PA, VA, SR) are for administrative purposes only. A work may be registered on any form. Exceptions: A sound recording (sounds that do not accompany a series of images) must be registered on Form SR. Form SE/GROUP may be used only for group registration of serials. For more information, see Circular 56, “Copyright for Sound Recordings.”

How to complete the form:

In general, complete the form as explained in the instructions and in applicable Copyright Office circulars. Information specific to online works is given in more detail below.

Space 2: How to describe the Nature of Authorship:

In Space 2 of the application, give a brief statement describing the original authorship being registered. Use terms that clearly refer to copyrightable authorship. Examples are “text,” “music,” “artwork,” “photographs,” “audiovisual material” (including any sounds), “sound recording” (if the sounds do not accompany a series of images), and “computer program.”

Do NOT give statements that refer to elements that may not be protected by copyright, that may be ambiguous, or that do not clearly reflect copyrightable authorship. For example, do NOT use the terms “user interface,”“format,” “layout,” “design,” “lettering,” “concept,” or “game play.”

Space 3: Determining if your work is published or unpublished:

The definition of “publication” in the U.S. copyright law does not specifically address online transmission. As has been the long-standing practice, the Copyright Office asks the applicant, who knows the facts surrounding distribution of copies of a work, to determine whether the work is published or not.

In the current copyright law, “publication” is defined as “... the distribution of copies or phonorecords of a work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending. The offering to distribute copies or phonorecords to a group of persons for purposes of further distribution, public performance, or public display, constitutes publication. A public performance or display of a work does not of itself constitute publication.” 17 U.S.C. sec. 101.

Published works: If you determine that your work is published, give the complete date and nation of first publication in Space 3b of the application. For a revised version, the publication date should be the date the revised version was first published, not the date the original version first appeared online. For registration purposes, give a single nation of first publication, which may be the nation from which the work is uploaded.

NOTE: If the same work is published both online and by the distribution of physical copies and these events occur on different dates, the publication date should refer to whichever occurred first. For what to deposit in this case, see the “Exception” below.

Unpublished works: If you determine that your work is unpublished, leave Space 3b blank. Do NOT write“Internet,” “homepage,” or any other term in this space.


All works transmitted online excluding computer programs, databases, and works fixed in CD-ROM format:

The deposit regulations of the Copyright Office do not specifically address works transmitted online. Until the regulations are amended, and under the authority granted the Copyright Office by 37 C.F.R. 202.20(c)(2)(viii), the Office will require the deposit of one of the following:

Option 1: a computer disk (clearly labeled with the title and author) containing the entire work and in addition, representative portions of the authorship being registered in a format that can be examined by the Office (printout, audiocassette, or videotape). If the work is short (e.g., five pages of text or artwork, or 3 minutes of music, sounds, or audiovisual material), deposit the entire work and confirm that it is complete. If the work is longer, deposit five representative pages or 3 representative minutes. This identifying material should include the title and author, and the copyright notice, if any.


Option 2: a reproduction of the entire work, regardless of length. Send the format appropriate for the authorship being registered, for example, a printout, audio cassette, or videotape. No computer disk is required.

Exception: If a work is published both online and by the distribution of physical copies in any format, the requirement of the deposit regulations for the copies applies, not the options for online works given above. For example, if a work is published in the form of hardbound books and is also transmitted online, the deposit requirement is two copies of the hardbound book.

Computer programs, databases, and works fixed in CD-ROM format transmitted online:

For computer programs, databases, and works fixed in CD-ROM format, the specific provisions of Copyright Office deposit regulations apply to works transmitted online. 37 C.F.R. 202.20(c)(vii) and 202.20(c)(xix). For further information, request Circular 61, “Copyright Registration for Computer Programs,” or Circular 65, “Copyright Registration for Automated Databases.” For works fixed in CD-ROM format, a complete copy of the CDROM package, including any operating software or instruction manual, is required.


For a single work ( Form TX, PA, VA, SR, or SE): $30* per application

For a group of serials or newsletters (Form SE/ GROUP): $15* per issue ($45* minimum)

For a group of updates to a database, covering up to a 3-month period ( Form TX): $30* per application

*NOTE: Copyright Office fees are subject to change. For current fees, please check the Copyright Office website at, write the Copyright Office, or call 707-3000.


Information via the Internet: Circulars, announcements, regulations, other related materials, and all copyright application forms are available from the Copyright Office at

Information by Fax: Circulars and other information (but not application forms) are available by using a touchtone phone to access Fax-on- Demand at 707-2600.

Information by telephone: If you have specific questions about registering a work transmitted online and want to speak with a copyright examiner, please call the Literary Section of the Examining Division at 707-8250. For general information about copyright, call the Public Information Office at 707-3000. The TTY number is 707-6737. Information specialists are on duty in the Public Information Office from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., eastern time, Monday through Friday, except federal holidays. Recorded information is available 24 hours a day. Or, if you know which application forms and circulars you want, request them from the Forms and Publications Hotline at 707- 9100 24 hours a day. Leave a recorded message.

Information by regular mail: Write to:

Library of Congress
Copyright Office
Public Information Office, LM-401
101 Independence Avenue, S.E.
Washington, D.C. 20559-6000

For more about how to obtain information online and via fax, request SL-10, “Get It Quick Over the Net.”

Rev: July 2002

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