ContractsCounsel Logo
Home Blog How to Do a Copyright Search

How to Do a Copyright Search

Jump to Section

What Is a Copyright Search?

When an individual is planning to create a piece of art like a song, book, or painting, a copyright search can be completed to find out if the intellectual property they are producing is original. If a person’s work duplicates an already existing tangible form of expression, it is called infringement, and the offender could be legally liable for any damages the original artist suffers.

Copyright for art is usually established when the work of art is created. If artists want to further ensure that their work has additional protections, they can register their creation to establish ironclad copyright protection.

The most extensive database for copyright searches in America is the Library of Congress Copyright Office. This copyright public records catalog is available to everyone and can be accessed online or in-person in Washington DC. The catalog includes information like who owns rights to specific intellectual property, and what works are protected and what works available for public use.

Copyright Registration Explained

Even though a work of art is automatically copyrighted upon creation, an artist may go one step forward and register their work. Copyright registration provides an artist with exclusive rights to their work which is considered intellectual property. If anyone else attempts to duplicate, alter, or distribute the original work, the artist who owns the rights can take legal action to protect their interests.

Work that is protected under copyright registration can include:

  • Paintings
  • Photographs
  • Illustrations
  • Musical compositions
  • Sound recordings
  • Computer programs
  • Books
  • Poems
  • Movies
  • Architecture
  • Blogs

Any of these creations can be registered for copyright protection.

It is common for people to confuse material that can be copyrighted with material that requires a trademark . Trademarks are for designs that include titles, names, phrases, slogans, or symbols. Trademarks have fewer automatic protections than copyrighted works do, and not all trademark applications are approved.

For art to be automatically protected under copyright laws, the Supreme Court explains that the work must be creative and have a “spark” and “modicum” of creativity.

One aspect of copyrights that most people don’t understand is that virtually everyone is a copyright owner in some form or another. Whether you register your work or not, the instant you create an original tangible form of expression, you own the exclusive rights to that work. Under United States copyright laws, exclusive rights include:

  • The right to reproduce your own work
  • The right to distribute your work by sale, lease, or lending
  • You can publicly perform the work
  • You can display your work
  • You can create more works based on the original
  • You have the power to authorize others to share these rights

Here is an article for more information about copyright registration.

How To Do a Copyright Search?

Conducting a copyright search can be complicated if you don’t know where to look or how to run an accurate search. The best place to start your copyright search is at the Library for Congress Copyright Office website. This website contains a searchable copyright database.

Follow these steps to do a copyright search:

  1. Go to Copyright.gov: Begin your search by navigating to copyright.gov. On the homepage, you will find the option to search copyright records.
  2. Access the database: Click the link that says, “Search our Copyright Public Records Catalog online here.”
  3. Run a basic search: The link will bring you to the catalog, where you can run a basic search. Type what you are looking for in the empty field “search for”.
  4. Choose a method to search by: After typing in your search, choose from the dropdown list of search methods:
  • Title
  • Name
  • Keyword
  • Registration number
  • Document number
  • Command keyword
  1. Run the search: Click “run search” to populate search results. You can choose how many results will show on the page and how the results are sorted.

If your basic search isn’t returning the desired results, you can narrow your search parameters under the “Other Search Options” tab.

If you are still having difficulties running your copyright search, it is highly recommended you consult with a copyright lawyer who can assist you in searching the copyright database.

Meet some lawyers on our platform

Sarah S.

35 projects on CC
CC verified
View Profile

Steven S.

21 projects on CC
CC verified
View Profile

Daniel R.

151 projects on CC
CC verified
View Profile

Maria A.

4 projects on CC
CC verified
View Profile

Copyright Search Tips

Completing a copyright search using the public records database can be confusing. Check out these tips to make your search more manageable and productive.

Tip #1: Figure out what you are searching for

Before you begin your search, you should first determine exactly what you’re looking for. Search methods will change depending on what you are trying to find. Copyright records from 1978 to present are recorded in the database on the Copyright Office website. If you look for art previous to 1978, it will be more complicated, and you will have to use other search options.

Tip #2: Copyrighted works before 1978

If the work you are looking for was created before 1978, don’t waste your time with an online search. Only works created after 1978 are in the Copyright Office database. For works before 1978, you will have to visit the Library of Congress in Washington DC, where card catalogs can be accessed in person. If traveling to Washington DC isn’t feasible, you can check with your local library for a copy of the Catalog of Copyright Entries. You can also hire a search service like the one offered by the US Copyright office.

Tip #3: Keep your search narrow

For the best results, first determine if you are trying to look up the actual owner of the work or just trying to see if the work has entered the public domain. If the work were published before 1923, it would automatically be in the public domain. Work published between 1923 and 1963 is protected for 28 years if the copyright is not renewed. If the copyright is renewed, the work is protected for 95 years. Any work published after 1923 is most likely copyrighted.

Tip #4: Hire a professional to help

Depending on the complexity of your search, and how much time you have available to dedicate to your search, you may want to hire an intellectual property lawyer or a copyright lawyer to assist you. Even though you will have to pay for legal services, it will save you valuable time.

How Much Does a Copyright Search Cost?

There is no fee to run a copyright search. The Library for Congress Copyright Office website is free for anyone to access and use for search purposes. For those having trouble with a search, help is available, but hiring someone to conduct your search will usually incur a fee.

The US Copyright Office offers a search service. They charge $200 per hour with a two-hour minimum. The search service will search its public records and provide a report of findings based on your request.

Individuals who need to conduct a copyright search can also hire a copyright lawyer to assist them with a copyright search. Attorney fees will vary for copyright searches and work depending on where you live, the complexity of the search, and the attorney’s experience.

Copyright searches are free; copyright registrations, however, are not.

Click here to check out fees associated with registering creative work for copyright protection.

Get Help with a Copyright Search

Do you have questions about how to do a copyright search and want to speak to an expert? Post a project today on ContractsCounsel and receive bids from intellectual property lawyers specializing in copyright laws and copyright searches.


ContractsCounsel is not a law firm, and this post should not be considered and does not contain legal advice. To ensure the information and advice in this post are correct, sufficient, and appropriate for your situation, please consult a licensed attorney. Also, using or accessing ContractsCounsel's site does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and ContractsCounsel.


How ContractsCounsel Works
Hiring a lawyer on ContractsCounsel is easy, transparent and affordable.
1. Post a Free Project
Complete our 4-step process to provide info on what you need done.
2. Get Bids to Review
Receive flat-fee bids from lawyers in our marketplace to compare.
3. Start Your Project
Securely pay to start working with the lawyer you select.

Meet some of our Lawyers

George O. on ContractsCounsel
View George
4.9 (5)
Member Since:
November 2, 2020

George O.

Managing Attorney
Free Consultation
Houston, Texas
17 Yrs Experience
Licensed in TX
South Texas College of Law

George Oggero is a down-to-earth lawyer who understands that his clients are human beings. He is a lifelong Houston resident. He graduated from St. Thomas High School and then Texas A&M University. He obtained his Doctor of Jurisprudence from South Texas College of Law in 2007. He is experienced in real estate, criminal defense, civil/commercial matters, personal, injury, business matters, general counsel on-demand, and litigation.

Ramsey T. on ContractsCounsel
View Ramsey
4.9 (5)
Member Since:
November 3, 2020

Ramsey T.

Founding Partner
Free Consultation
New York
27 Yrs Experience
Licensed in NY
William and Mary

My clients are often small and medium size technology companies, from the "idea" stage to clients who may have raised a round or three of capital and need to clean up a messy cap table. I help with all legal matters related to growth that keep founders up at night - hiring people, allocating equity, dealing with shareholders and investors, client negotiations and early litigation counseling (before you need a litigator). I've seen a lot, and because I run my own business, I understand the concerns that keep you up at night. I’ve been through, both on my own and through other clients, the “teething” pains that will inevitably arise as you scale-up – and I’m here to help you. I have over 20 years international experience devising and implementing robust corporate legal strategies and governance for large multinationals. I now focus on start-ups and early/medium stage technology companies to enable a sound legal foundation for your successful business operations. Many of my clients are international with US based holding companies or presences. My 17 years abroad helps me "translate" between different regimes and even enabling Civil and Common Law lawyers to come together. Regularly, I handle early stage financings including Convertible Notes, Seed and Series A/B financings; commercial and technology contracts; international transactions; tax; mergers and acquisitions.

Michael B. on ContractsCounsel
View Michael
4.8 (14)
Member Since:
October 30, 2020

Michael B.

Attorney
Free Consultation
Illinois
14 Yrs Experience
Licensed in IL, MN, WI
University of the Pacific

Michael has extensive experience advising companies from start-ups to established publicly-traded companies . He has represented businesses in a wide array of fields IT consulting, software solutions, web design/ development, financial services, SaaS, data storage, and others. Areas of expertise include contract drafting and negotiation, terms of use, business structuring and funding, company and employee policies, general transactional issues as well as licensing and regulatory compliance. His prior experience before entering private practice includes negotiating sales contracts for a Fortune 500 healthcare company, as well as regulatory compliance contracts for a publicly traded dental manufacturer. Mr. Brennan firmly believes that every business deserves a lawyer that is both responsive and dependable, and he strives to provide that type of service to every client.

Ross F. on ContractsCounsel
View Ross
Member Since:
October 27, 2020

Ross F.

Managing Partner
Free Consultation
Bedford, New Hampshire
13 Yrs Experience
Licensed in MA, NH
University of Arizona

I am an experienced technology contracts counsel that has worked with companies that are one-person startups, publicly-traded international corporations, and every size in between. I believe legal counsel should act as a seatbelt and an airbag, not a brake pedal!

John H. on ContractsCounsel
View John
Member Since:
November 11, 2020

John H.

Attorney-at-Law
Free Consultation
Mobile, AL
13 Yrs Experience
Licensed in AL
Thomas Goode Jones School of Law

John Daniel "J.D." Hawke is an experienced attorney with a law practice in Mobile, Alabama. He was born in Fairhope, Alabama and after earning his undergraduate degree at Auburn University, he received a law degree from Thomas Goode Jones School of Law in 2010. After law school, he formed the Law Office of J.D. Hawke LLC and over the last decade he has fought incredibly hard for each and everyone of his clients. His practice focuses on representing people facing criminal charges and clients dealing with family law matters. In addition to criminal defense and domestic relations cases, he also regularly handles contract disputes, personal injury cases, small business issues, landlord/tenant disputes, document drafting, and estate planning. He is licensed to practice law in the State of Alabama and the United States District Court for the Southern District of Alabama.

Thomas C. on ContractsCounsel
View Thomas
Member Since:
October 30, 2020

Thomas C.

Partner
Free Consultation
Denver, CO
11 Yrs Experience
Licensed in CO
University of Colorado Law School

Thomas Codevilla is Partner at SK&S Law Group where he focuses on Data Privacy, Security, Commercial Contracts, Corporate Finance, and Intellectual Property. Read more at Skandslegal.com Thomas’s clients range from startups to large enterprises. He specializes in working with businesses to build risk-based data privacy and security systems from the ground up. He has deep experience in GDPR, CCPA, COPPA, FERPA, CALOPPA, and other state privacy laws. He holds the CIPP/US and CIPP/E designations from the International Association of Privacy Professionals. Alongside his privacy practice he brings a decade of public and private transactional experience, including formations, financings, M&A, corporate governance, securities, intellectual property licensing, manufacturing, regulatory compliance, international distribution, China contracts, and software-as-a-service agreements.

Lyndsey G. on ContractsCounsel
View Lyndsey
Member Since:
October 30, 2020

Lyndsey G.

Attorney
Free Consultation
Roseville, MN
10 Yrs Experience
Licensed in MN
Mitchell Hamline College of Law

Attorney of 6 years with experience evaluating and drafting contracts, formation document, and policies and procedures in multiple industries. Expanded to estate planning last year.

Find the best lawyer for your project

Browse Lawyers Now

Quick, user friendly and one of the better ways I've come across to get ahold of lawyers willing to take new clients.

View Trustpilot Review

Need help with a Copyright Search?

Post Your Project

Get Free Bids to Compare

Hire Your Lawyer

CONTRACT LAWYERS BY TOP CITIES
See All Intellectual Property Lawyers

Contracts Counsel was incredibly helpful and easy to use. I submitted a project for a lawyer's help within a day I had received over 6 proposals from qualified lawyers. I submitted a bid that works best for my business and we went forward with the project.

View Trustpilot Review

I never knew how difficult it was to obtain representation or a lawyer, and ContractsCounsel was EXACTLY the type of service I was hoping for when I was in a pinch. Working with their service was efficient, effective and made me feel in control. Thank you so much and should I ever need attorney services down the road, I'll certainly be a repeat customer.

View Trustpilot Review

I got 5 bids within 24h of posting my project. I choose the person who provided the most detailed and relevant intro letter, highlighting their experience relevant to my project. I am very satisfied with the outcome and quality of the two agreements that were produced, they actually far exceed my expectations.

View Trustpilot Review

How It Works

Post Your Project

Get Free Bids to Compare

Hire Your Lawyer

Want to speak to someone?

Get in touch below and we will schedule a time to connect!

Request a call

Find lawyers and attorneys by city