Where Do You Start a Copyright Search?

Although Intellogist focuses on resources for patent searchers, we often explore search tools for other types of  intellectual property researchers. A few weeks ago, I gave a brief overview of how to search the USPTO’s Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS), an invaluable resource for trademark searchers focusing on US intellectual property.  Besides patents and trademarks, copyright is the third major type of intellectual property in the US, and the US Copyright Office provides access to all copyright records from 1978 to present through the US Copyright Catalog. The US Copyright Catalog is an excellent place to start a copyright search, although you may want professional searchers to help you with locating copyright records for important business decisions and legal matters.

Continue reading to learn about searching for copyright records through the online US Copyright Catalog!


Searching for Copyright Records

The US Copyright Catalog (from 1978-present) is available through the Copyright.gov website, which is maintained by the US Copyright Office. From the Copyright.gov homepage, users can select the “Search Copyright Records” option to view the “Search Copyright Information” webpage.

Select “Search Copyright Records.”

This page offers users two options:

  • Search the Catalog – “Search records of registered books, music, art, and periodicals, and other works. Includes copyright ownership documents.” This option also provides links to information about the online catalog and a tutorial demonstrating how to use the online copyright catalog.
  • Find records prior to January 1, 1978 – This option links to a publication by the US Copyright Office about searching for early copyright records (prior to 1978).

Choose to “Search the Catalog.”

Choose the link to “Search the Catalog” to open the public catalog search interface. Users can choose from two search options on the interface:

  • Basic Search – Enter a term in the search form and select a field from the menu of options to search within (title, name, keyword, registration number, document number, or command keyword). Descriptions of search types and various hints for effective searching are displayed on the bottom half of the page. Users may define the number of records they want to display per page (10, 25, 50, or 100), and they can also select the “Set Search Limits” option to filter results by date or item type. Choose the “Begin Search” button to conduct the search, or clear the search form through the “Reset” button.

The “Basic Search” form.

  • Other Search Options – Choose this tab to utilize a fielded search interface, where users can enter search terms in one or two text boxes (connected by a selected Boolean operator). Beside each text box, users can select how the terms in the box will be interpreted (select to search for any of the terms, all of the terms, or treat the terms as a phrase). Users can also select a field for each text box through an adjacent drop-down menu of options. Search tips are displayed below the form. Finally, the user can define the number of records they want to display per page (10, 25, 50, or 100), and they can also select the “Set Search Limits” option to filter results by date or item type. Choose the “Begin Search” button to conduct the search, or clear the search form through the “Reset” button.

The “Other Search Options” form.

Viewing Copyright Records

After conducting a search, a list of titles will be displayed. At the top of the results page, the full query (“Search Request”) and number of search results will be displayed. The results are displayed in a table that includes a numbered link to the full record, the record author, full title, and date of the record. The table can be re-sorted by title, name, or date (ascending/descending), and the result set can be filtered by date or item type through the “Set Search Limits” option. Select the check boxes beside each relevant result in the table, and records can be printed, saved, or emailed through the options displayed at the bottom of the page.

The search result list for a search of copyright records.

Choose the linked number in the table to view the full record. Full records can be saved, printed, or emailed. Names are often linked in the full record, so users can view lists of copyright records associated with a particular claimant or author name.

Full copyright record.

Menu Options

From the horizontal menu at the top of the screen on each page of the catalog, users can select from the following options:

  • Help – View help tips associated with the particular search form or display that you are currently utilizing.
  • Search – Return to the “Basic Search”/”Other Search Options” form.
  • History – View a list of past search queries. Queries created through the “Other Search Options” form may be combined with other past queries. Select the hyperlinked number in the “Edit” column to edit the query directly within the search form. It should be noted that “Search History does not retain information about Search Limits. When a search is re-executed or edited, any current limits in effect will be used instead of limits previously specified.”
  • Titles – View the list of results from your current search.
  • Start Over – Clear the current search history and limits.

Conclusion
The US Copyright Catalog provides a no-frills search interface that may confuse novice searchers with the text-heavy fielded search forms and frustrate expert searchers with the lack of a command line interface.  I found some bright spots with the site interface, such as the option to combine past search queries and the easy menu for selecting, saving, and emailing/printing search results and full records.  Overall, the main problem with the US Copyright Catalog is the coverage that only dates back to 1978.  If you need to search for copyright records prior to 1978, you’ll most likely need to visit the Copyright Public Records Reading Room at the Library of Congress.  Luckily, there are expert searchers who can do the hard work for you: contact Landon IP for more information!

Do you know of any other copyright search resources?  Let us know in the comment section!

Patent Information from Landon IP

This post was contributed by Joelle Mornini. The Intellogist blog is provided for free by Intellogist’s parent company Landon IP, a major provider of patent searches, trademark searches, technical translations, and information retrieval services.

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2 Responses

  1. The only source I know of to search for Pre-1978 is Google’s scanned catalog of Copyright Entries: http://books.google.com/googlebooks/copyrightsearch.html
    Don’t know if this is comprehensive but I’m not aware of any other source although if you find any, please let us know!

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