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Registration, Deposit, and Notice

Registration of copyright requires applicants to record the existence of authored works and the identity of their authors with the Copyright Office in the Library of Congress. Copyright deposit involves placing the work in its written, recorded, or other physical form with the same office. Notice of copyright means marking the authored work with the word “Copyright,” the abbreviation “Copr.,” or the letter “C” in a circle, along with the year of first publication and the name of the copyright owner.

For nearly two centuries after the U. S. Constitution was ratified by the states, several major copyright acts required that applicants register and deposit their works with a federal district court or the Library of Congress before a copyright could be enforceable. The Copyright Act of 1976 eliminated these requirements, giving authors exclusive federal copyright protection from the moment they reduce their work to a tangible medium of expression.

Nonetheless, registration, deposit, and notice still have significant legal and practical consequences. Copyright owners may not sue for infringement unless they have first registered the copyright (see 17 U.S.C. §§ 411, 412). Although deposit is not a precondition to bringing a suit for infringement, federal law requires that two copies of a published work be deposited within three months of publication, and failure to deposit a copy after it has been demanded by the Copyright Office is a criminal offense punishable by a fine. Notice provides immediate warning that a work is protected by copyright and may help stave off legal disputes with potential infringers.

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