Online Publication

The Copyright Office has published a notification of inquiry requesting written comments on issues relating to online publication, including whether and how to amend its registration regulations and other considerations relevant to ensuring continued thorough assistance to Congress. Pursuant to statutory requirements, Copyright Office regulations require applications for a copyright registration to state whether a work has been published and, if so, to provide the date and nation of first publication. In general, the Office leaves the determination of whether or not a work is published to the applicant, and to aid this determination, provides guidance documents based on the statutory definition of publication, including the Compendium of U.S. Copyright Office Practices and various Circulars. Increasingly, applicants have expressed frustration related to the uncertainty in determining whether a work that has been posted on the internet or otherwise shared digitally has been published.

The Office is interested in the perspectives and suggestions of copyright owners and the general public regarding possible new regulations interpreting the statutory definition of publication for registration purposes and policy guidance regarding the role that publication should play in copyright law and the registration process.

Written comments to the notification of inquiry were due March 19, 2020. Written reply comments were due June 15, 2020.

On December 1, 2021, the Office sent a letter to Sen. Thom Tillis in response to his request for further information regarding the progress of the Office’s study. The letter provides an update on the Office’s progress in evaluating the issues raised in the notification of inquiry and identifies topics for further consideration.