Virtual Card Catalog (Proof of Concept)

The U.S. Copyright Card Catalog provides an index to copyright registrations and other public records pertaining to ownership of copyrighted works. The catalog enables users to identify original copyright registration records and other U.S. Copyright Office records from 1870 through 1977. The information in these records typically includes name of author(s), title of work, copyright registration number, and effective date of registration. These records do not include the full registration records or copies of deposited works registered with the Copyright Office. The card catalog also contains entries for transfers of ownership, generally one card for each title, assignee, and assignor.

Over the decades, with changes in the rules of cataloging copyright registrations, the U.S. Copyright Office has organized these records into several chronological periods or indexes. There are six primary Registration indexes: 1971-1977, 1955-1970, 1946-1954, 1938-1945, 1898-1937, and 1870-1897. Other indexes include assignments, notice of use, commercial prints and labels, and a pseudonym file.

The Purpose of the Virtual Card Catalog

The Proof of Concept card catalog represents card records, displayed in JPEG images, from the U.S. Copyright Card Catalog collection. The 41.5 million images are presented in a similar filing order as found in the physical card catalog and may contain filing errors and corrupt images. In addition, the enhanced browse capabilities are limited due to the use of raw OCR data. The Office is not planning any further development at this time.

The purpose of this Proof of Concept is to provide access to the digitized card catalog. Searchable card catalog records are included in the Copyright Public Records System Pilot, which incorporates feedback from Virtual Card Catalog users.

About the Digitization Process

The cards in the Copyright Card Catalog were scanned into high-resolution TIFF images for archival purposes. These TIFF images were then converted into smaller, presentation copy images in JPEG format to create the online images for the VCC. In addition, optical character recognition (OCR) and intelligent character recognition (ICR) technology were used to capture metadata from the images of the typed and handwritten text in cards from 1950 through 1977. The raw datasets have been added to the VCC to enable enhanced browse capabilities.


This Proof of Concept is a demonstration of a potential Virtual Card Catalog to validate its feasibility and to verify that the concept has a practical potential use for the public. The images are presented in this virtual card catalog in the exact filing order as found in the physical card catalog and may contain filing errors and corrupt images. This Proof of Concept does not replace or supersede existing search practices established by the United States Copyright Office, and the results should not be relied on for legal matters. For information on searching copyright records, please refer to How to Investigate the Copyright Status of a Work (Circular 22). If you would like to request removal of personal information from the Virtual Card Catalog, please refer to Privacy: Copyright Public Records (Circular 18).