About this Collection
The U.S. Copyright Office is governed by Title 17 of the United States Code, which requires the Register of Copyrights to maintain and provide public access to copyright records. This collection is a preview of a digitized version of the U.S. Copyright Office’s historical record books. The collection contains images of copyright applications and other records bound in books dating from 1870 to 1977. The collection offers a historically-important snapshot of the culture of the United States, primarily relating to copyrightable expression, authorship, and copyright ownership.
This collection is a digital preview of the physical collection and should not be relied on for legal matters. To access the official public records in the copyright historical record books, visit the Copyright Office Public Records Reading Room. In the future, as part of its overall modernization efforts, the Copyright Office plans to incorporate digitized, searchable versions of the official historical record books into the Office’s Copyright Public Record System (CPRS), which is currently in a public pilot.
The collection will be made available online starting with the most recent volumes from 1977, proceeding through the Copyright Office’s internal administrative classification system in reverse chronological order. Images of record books will be added to this collection as they are digitized.
About the Historical Record Books
The copyright records in the historical record books include registrations, renewals, assignments, notices of use of musical compositions, and other related records, including patent records from 1870-1940. Many of the works to which these records pertain are still under copyright protection.
Registrations refer to records of authors and claimants securing claims to copyright in books, periodicals, lectures, musical compositions, photographs, films, pieces of art, or other intellectual property.
Renewals are records of applications to extend copyright protection beyond the original term.
Assignments concern the transfer of copyright ownership from one party to another.
Notices of use concern instances in which a musical composition is used by a third party.
Patent records refer to patent examiner indices between 1870-1940.
The Copyright Office’s approach to maintaining and organizing copyright records has evolved throughout its history. Each record is listed in the order in which the Office issued a registration, renewal, assignment, or notice of use with a corresponding number. Renewals, notices of use, and assignments reference previously-assigned registration numbers. The numbers in each class or type of copyright record ascend numerically with these numbers assigned by the Copyright Office.
To find a specific registration, users will need to find the record book volume with the corresponding class and year. Users will then be able to identify the record book by registration, renewal, or assignment that contains the number they are seeking. More information on the Copyright Record Classification is available here (PDF 66KB). The documents within the historical record books are also indexed in the Copyright Card Catalog, available online in the Virtual Card Catalog, and limited groups are listed in the Catalog of Copyright Entries.
Disclaimer: The display of this collection preview on LOC.gov does not replace or supersede the physical record books available for inspection in Copyright Public Records Reading Room, or existing search practices established by the Copyright Office. Any results obtained during the course of your search on LOC.gov are not reliable for legal matters. For information on searching copyright records, please refer to Circular 22 "How to Investigate the Copyright Status of a Work" (PDF 419KB).
In making this collection available online, the Copyright Office has taken steps to reduce the possibility of exposing extraneous PII (i.e., PII that is not requested by the Office). Some extraneous PII, however, may still exist in the collection. Requests to remove extraneous PII from registration records can be made to the Copyright Office in writing using the contact information listed in 37 CFR § 201.1(c). 37 CFR § 201.2(f). For information regarding requests to remove personal information from Copyright Office public records, please refer to Circular 18 "Privacy: Copyright Public Records" (PDF 328KB).
More information on the Copyright Office’s Historical Public Records Program and its effort to secure and preserve historical records through digitization to make these records available online can be found on the Copyright Office’s website.