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DATE: May 30, 2007

NAME: Data elements needed to ascertain copyright facts

SOURCE: California Digital Library/Library of Congress

SUMMARY: This paper proposes encoding information that would be needed in a MARC 21 record to be able to ascertain facts concerning copyright status. This would facilitate the user to make a reasonable judgment about what use is allowed of the resource, and is particularly important in the digital world, where resources are accessed outside the context of the originating archive. It suggests using a single field to contain all copyright information, even if repeating other data somewhere else in the record, because of the complications.

KEYWORDS: Copyright facts; Copyright status; Field 540 (BD); Terms governing use and reproduction note (BD)



05/30/2007 - Made available to the MARC community for discussion.

06/24/2007 - Results of the MARC Advisory Committee discussion - The group agreed that a separate 5XX field would be the preferred place for this copyright information. There was some concern about how the new copyright field would interact with field 540 (Terms Governing Use and Reproduction Note), however. Participants agreed that field 540 is usually coded for archival material when there is a donor agreement. There was also concern that a new copyright field would be difficult to maintain. Some participants did not anticipate that the copyright data would be recorded in great detail. It was suggested to repeat the field whenever adding new information so to keep a history of copyright status in the record. The group discussed which date conventions to use for the copyright data. It was decided that the ISO 8601 standard was inadequate alone because it provides no way to encode questionable and open dates. Some date conventions may need to be established. One participant suggested adding subfield $z for a general note to the copyright field to record additional information, such as type of material. The question arose as to what to do if there is more than one creator and multiple death dates to be given. It was noted that in many cases, copyright status could not be given because it is uncertain.


DISCUSSION PAPER NO. 2007-DP05: Data elements needed to ascertain copyright facts

1. Background

When users want to make use of a digital resource, they have to know certain facts to assess the copyright status of the work in order to make a reasonable judgment about what use is allowed. The tradition of library cataloging has not included the recording of information relating to the copyright facts of works, except when that information is included for other purposes, such as the date "c2004" representing the copyright date when the publication date is not available. The MARC 21 format has no fields for recording a copyright statement. The note field "Restrictions on Access Note" (MARC 21 field 506) can be used to indicate a variety of access restrictions, either in terms of the contractual arrangement with the donor of an archive or for materials whose access is limited to a certain class of users. The note field "Terms Covering Use and Reproduction" (MARC 21 field 540) can be used to record terms that apply once access has been obtained. Neither of these notes allows the recording of any detailed information about the copyright status of the work. Field 017 (Copyright or Legal Deposit Number) is also available for a copyright registration or legal deposit number, although not all copyrighted works would have such a number.

Determination of copyright status is difficult. Although some regularly published items contain a copyright statement, the bulk of works in archives and on the Internet contain little information to support a copyright determination. Where information is available, however, it would enhance service to users to make that available in metadata records that are created. Adding such information to the record would be optional; providing a way to do this allows for recording it when it is available. Often this metadata will be scant; however providing users with what we do know about the copyright status of the work is an essential service.

The US Copyright Office records may be a source for some of this information in the cases where copyright was registered. The Copyright Office is in the process of making its catalog of copyright records available to the public, although this will not be comprehensive in that it depends upon the year of publication/creation as to whether there will likely be a record. In addition, since not all items are registered and because of the changes in the copyright laws, copyright records will not always exist. However the Copyright Office will be an authoritative source of information when the information is available.

Discussion Paper No. 2006-DP04 was presented to the MARC community in June 2006 and considered some of these issues. It analyzed the relevant information currently in the MARC record and what additional data elements might be needed to ascertain copyright facts. The discussion indicated that participants felt that a new discussion paper should be written that explores various issues, especially whether MARC records are the best medium to store copyright information. If so, the MARC record should be extensible to accommodate a range of different national copyright laws. The scope of the copyright information should be further explored, such as whether the copyright information should be added to only archival and unpublished materials, or to published works, as well. Participants questioned whether the record could handle complex copyright situations with various kinds of rights held by different persons and bodies. Including copyright facts in the authority and holdings formats was also suggested. The new discussion paper should also include a broader set of examples.

2. Current Practice

Archives and digital libraries frequently include rights information in their user displays, although because there is no standard for these the displays vary greatly. Some examples are:

Internet Archive, Digital Books

Possible Copyright Status: NOT_IN_COPYRIGHT

Copyright Region: US

Copyright Evidence: Evidence reported by scanner-scott-cairns for item lettersofmatthew01arnouoft on December 1, 2006: visible notice of copyright; stated date is 1895.

Copyright Evidence Date: 20061201175546

Bibliotheque Nationale de France, Europeana

Date : 1899
Droits : domaine public

Google Book Search

Full view: If we've determined that a book is out of copyright, or the publisher or rightsholder has given us permission, you'll be able to page through the entire book from start to finish, as many times as you like. If the book is in the public domain, you'll also be able download, save and print a PDF version to read at your own pace.

Limited preview: If a publisher or author has joined our Partner Program, you'll be able to see a few full pages from the book as a preview. You can conduct multiple searches within the book, or browse through the available pages (there's a limit to the amount of the book you can view online).

Snippet view: Clicking on the book result, you'll be taken to the 'About this book' page. If you choose to search within the book, for each search term we'll display up to three snippets of text from the book, showing your search term in context. You can enter additional searches to help you decide whether you've found the right book. As always in Book Search, you'll see links to places where you can buy or borrow the book.

No preview available: For books where we're unable to show you snippets, you'll see an 'About this book' page displaying bibliographic information about the book, plus links to help you find it in a bookstore or library.

Library of Congress, American Memory Project

Copyright and Restrictions
Per the instrument of gift, "for a period of 20 years from the date of this Instrument [1966], none of the photographs contained in said collection may be sold, reproduced, published or given away in any form whatsoever except with my [Saul Mauriber, Photographic Executor for Van Vechten] express permission in writing." This restriction expired in 1986. In 1998 the Library's Publishing Office was contacted by Bruce Kellner, Successor Trustee for the Van Vechten estate, who disputes Mr. Mauriber's authority in executing the Instrument of Gift. Upon review of the relevant materials, the Library continues to believe that the photographs are in the public domain. However, patrons are advised that Mr. Kellner has expressed his concern that use of Van Vechten's photographs "preserve the integrity" of his work, i.e., that photographs not be colorized or cropped, and that proper credit is given to the photographer. Privacy and publicity rights may apply.

Other institutions provide terms of use information that would be suitable for a 540 note, but do not specifically provide information that supports a determination of the copyright status of the item. Examples are:

University of Nevada, Las Vegas Special Collections

Date.Original: 1873

Digital publisher: University of Nevada, Las Vegas Libraries

Access and Ordering Information: Not to be reproduced without permission. To purchase copies of images and/or for copyright information, contact University of Nevada, Las Vegas Libraries, Special Collections at:

Online Archive of California

Title: Horse Creek Store, Horse Creek, Calif.

Date: 1956.

From the Eastman's Originals Collection, Department of Special Collections, General Library, University of California, Davis.The collection is property of the Regents of the University of California; no part may be reproduced or used without permission of the Department of Special Collections.

Printable image: image only; image with details

In addition, there are copyright resources online with information about copyright registrations and renewals. Some examples of records from these:

U.S. Copyright Office

Registration Number: RE-260-823
Title: Raintree County. By Ross Lockridge , Jr., abridged by Edmund Fuller.
Claimant: acVernice Lockridge Noyes (PWH))
Effective Registration Date: 9Oct85
Original Registration Date: 7Feb57;
Original Registration Number: A278003.
Original Class: A
Claim Limit: NEW MATTER: abridgment.

Canadian Copyright Register

Data on copyrights is shown in the official language in which it was submitted. The links on the text provide access to the help file.

Title: Oryx and Crake
Type: Copyright
Registration Number: 1011302
Status: Registered
Registered: 2003-04-24
Category Of Work: Literary
Date Published: 2003-04-22
Country Published: Canada
Interested Parties:
Company Name: O.W. Toad Ltd.
Original Address: 105 Admiral Road Toronto; Ontario M5R 2L7; Canada
Current Address: Same as original address.
Company Name: McClelland & Stewart Ltd.
Person Name: Liz Schensema
Original Address: 481 University Avenue, Suite 900 Toronto; Ontario M5G 2E9; Canada
Current Address: Same as original address.
Person Name Margaret Atwood
Original Address: 105 Admiral Road Toronto; Ontario M5R 2L7; Canada
Current Address: Same as original address.

Stanford Copyright Renewal Database

Title: Raintree County
Author: Ross Lockridge, Jr
Registration Date: 5Jan48
Renewal Date: 11Jul75
Registration Number: A20757
Renewal Id: R609087
Renewing Entity: Vernice Lockridge Noyes (W)
Old Class Code: W


3.1. Data elements needed

Of the data elements needed to support a copyright determination of a work, some are already available in bibliographic records, although the use of these data elements for bibliographic description may not be the same as is needed to describe copyright-related facts. For example cataloging rules may determine whether both the publication and copyright date is included. AACR2 specifies recording the copyright date only when the publication date is unknown and a recent LCRI discontinued the practice of adding the copyright date (indicated by "c" preceding the date) when it is different from the publication date. In the case of copyright renewal, the dates are not the same and both may need to be recorded.

Based on the analysis done by the Rights Management Group of the California Digital Library (see; also, the key data elements to support a copyright assessment are:

This assumes a copyright law derived from the Berne Convention, which bases copyright duration on the life of the author. Nationality of the author and country of publication are used by Berne Convention signatories to address works of foreign origin. Within individual countries, actual copyright law will differ, but the core facts that support copyright remain those of Berne. The data elements shown here do not refer to law per se but to the acts and actors of intellectual property rights.

These data elements have some overlap with the descriptive metadata elements in the current MARC 21 format, although differences exist in how the similar data elements are used and under what circumstances. 

Administrative data elements that may also be needed are:

There are various options that might be considered for including this information in the MARC 21 record. Field 017 is not proposed as it is specifically designed for the copyright or legal deposit number along with the assigning agency (e.g., US Copyright Office) and date of the copyright. This field could be a source of information.

3.2. Option 1: Field 540 modified for copyright information

This field could be modified to include additional facts about copyright. The field currently is defined as:


Terms governing the use of the described materials (e.g., copyrights, film rights, trade rights) after access has been provided.


Subfield Codes

3.2.1. Additional subfields

Additional subfields that would be needed to accommodate copyright information are added in bold below to the existing ones in field 540.


Terms governing the use of the described materials (e.g., copyrights, film rights, trade rights) after access has been provided.


Subfield Codes

3.3. Option 2: Define a new field for all copyright information

In this option, a specific field and a set of subfields are defined for the copyright data elements. Since field 540 is intended as a note and most of the information is in subfield $a, it may be better to define a new field whose sole purpose is for copyright information, rather than other general use restrictions. All the data elements listed above that would be added to field 540 would then be defined in a new field except perhaps $b (Jurisdiction), $c (Authorization) and $d (Authorized users). A number of fields in the 5XX block are available; 543 is suggested here, since it is close to the related field 540.

543 - Information pertaining to copyright facts (R)

Information known about the item that may be used to determine copyright status.


Subfield Codes


Use of 540:
Use of a separate field:

3.4 Other options

3.4.1. Use Authority Record

It was suggested that we explore the use of the authority record for this data. As they stand today, authority records are not always created at the level of granularity that is applied by copyright. Copyright is at the expression level. For example, different editions and different translations are given copyright protection.

Uniform title: A la recherche du temps perdu. English
Bibliographic entries: 1) Remembrance of things past / by Marcel Proust ; adapted by Harold Pinter and Di Trevis. London : Faber and Faber, 2000. 2) In search of lost time / Marcel Proust ; translated by C.K. Scott Moncrieff & Terence Kilmartin ; revised by D.J. Enright. London : Chatto & Windus, 1992.

At the same time, it is possible that in these editions which are distinguished from each other there is no difference in the copyright of the expression of the work whose title is listed.

A la recherche du temps perdu. English (Modern Library (Firm)
A la recherche du temps perdu. English (Albert & Charles Boni)

In addition, copyright may be in portions of a bibliographic item, as in the example above where separate copyright is held in the introduction and in the notes of a published work. There would need to be authority records for those portions in order to document their copyright status.

3.4.2.  Use Holdings record.

Another suggestion was to code copyright information in the holdings record. Presumably this would be used in situations where different versions of an item are represented in different holdings records, a practice in some libraries. However, changes at the manifestation level, such as the creation of a digital copy of a previously print work, do not change the copyright status of the expression. Because holdings records are typically not exchanged between institutions, this would limit its usefulness in the holdings record.

4. Examples

Note: these examples use the subfielding given in option 1 (subfields added to the 540 field). Some modifications may be needed to follow option 2 (new field 543).


245 10 $a Moby-Dick, or, The whale / $c by Herman Melville
260      $a Vintage Books/The Library of America $d 1991
540      $f Said, Edward W. $i Said, Edward W. $k Introduction copyright 1991 by Edward W Said $n 1991
            $v US $3 Introduction
540      $i Literary Classics of the United States $k Chronology, Note on the Text, and Notes copyright 1983
            by Literary Classics of the United States, Inc. New York, N.Y. $n 1983 $vUS $3 Chronology,
            Note on the Text, Notes

Possible display:

Title: Moby-Dick, or, The whale / by Herman Melville
Publisher: Vintage books/The Library of America, 1991
Copyright statement: Introduction copyright 1991 by Edward W Said
Copyright statement: Chronology, Note on the Text, and Notes copyright 1983 by Literary Classics of the United States, Inc. New York, N.Y.

100 1    $a Martin, Henri Jean, $d 1924-
240 10  $a Histoire et pouvoirs de l'ecrit. $l English
245 14  $a The history and power of writing / $c Henri-Jean Martin ; translated by Lydia G. Cochrane.
260       $a Chicago : $b University of Chicago Press, $c 1994.
540       $f Martin, Henri Jean $i University of Chicago Press $k Copyright 1994 by the University of Chicago $n 1994

Possible display:

Author: Martin, Henri Jean, 1924-
Uniform Title: [Histoire et pouvoirs de l'ecrit. English]
Title: The history and power of writing / Henri-Jean Martin ; translated by Lydia G. Cochrane.
Publisher: Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 1994
Copyright statement: Copyright 1994 by the University of Chicago

245 10  $a Letters of Matthew Arnold, 1848-1888 / $c collected and arranged by George W.E. Russell
260       $a London : $b Macmillan, $c 1895
540       $k Copyright 1895 $l Evidence reported by scanner-scott-cairns for item lettersofmaththew01arnouoft;
             visible notice of copyright; stated date is 1895 $m 20061201175546 $s Public domain $m 1895
             $q London, Macmillan $b Internet Archive, California, US $v UK

Possible display:

Title: Letters of Matthew Arnold, 1848-1888 / collected and arranged by George W.E. Russell
Publisher: London, Macmillan, 1895
Copyright status: Public domain
Copyright statement: Copyright 1895
Copyright evidence: Evidence reported by scanner-scott-cairns for item lettersofmaththew01arnouoft; visible notice of copyright; stated date is 1895
Jurisdiction: Internet Archive, California, US
Country of publication: UK


100      $a Rockwell, Norman
245 14 $a The country agricultural agent
540      $k copyright 1948 SEPS $p 1948

Possible display:

Author: Rockwell, Norman
Title: The country agricultural agent
Copyright statement: copyright 1948 SEPS

245    $a View of Main Street
540    $f unknown $i unknown $p 1905? $s unknown $t unknown

Possible display:

Title: View of Main Street
Date of creation: 1905?
Creator: unknown
Copyright holder: unknown
Copyright status: unknown
Publication status: unknown

5. Questions for Further Discussion

5.1. Is there a need to include more complete information to determine copyright restrictions in the MARC record or can this be accomplished by other means outside the format?

5.2. Is field 540 the most appropriate for this information? Is there an overlap with field 506? Or, would it be preferable to define an entirely new field for all copyright information instead of using 540 with additional new subfields?

5.3. How should date ranges be formatted? ISO 8601 generally suggests using a slash between the first and last date (although it gives other options). Should the format specify the encoding? ISO 8601 also has no way to handle unknown dates, so there may be a need to specify conventions.

5.4. How should controlled values be handled? For instance, it may be desirable to use controlled terms in the subfield for publication status (published, unpublished, unknown) and in the subfield for copyright status (e.g. under copyright, public domain, unknown). It would be ambiguous to use $2 to specify a controlled list for this information, since there would be two subfields and controlled lists. Is it important that controlled terms be used? If so, can the format specify what the terms should be? Would an indicator value be better to enforce enumerated values?

5.5. How can the source of the information and its currency be recorded? This will be difficult because each subfield could have a different source and different date when determined. Or is it unnecessary?

5.6. Is there any advantage to adding just a few subfields to the 540 to carry copyright statements and/or free-text notes relating to copyright and copyright status, or to creating a copyright-specific free-text note?

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