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What Is a Copyright Search?
A copyright search is a search that an individual conducts to see if the intellectual property they are planning to create is original. Before a person writes a book or poem, creates a work of art, or records a song, they need to ensure that their work is not a duplicate of an already existing tangible form of expression .
For the most part, the copyright for art is established when the art is created. To further ensure that the work is protected, many artists choose to register their creations to establish copyright protection.
The most extensive database for copyright searches is the Library for Congress Copyright Office. This copyright public records catalog is available online to everyone. The catalog will include information about who owns rights to what intellectual property, and it will show what works are protected are available for public use.
Click here to learn more about copyright searches and research services.
How Copyrights Work
A copyright provides an artist with a set of exclusive rights to the work they have created. Anything an artist makes, whether an author writing a book or a musician recording a song, is considered intellectual property. The original artists have the right to protect their creations.
Copyrights protect original work from:
Some of the different types of work that copyright can protect includes:
- Musical compositions
- Sound recordings
- Computer programs
Any of the above creations are considered “original” when created by someone independently without copying anything. According to the Supreme Court, in order for a work to be creative, it must have a “spark” and “modicum” of creativity. Copyrights protect expression, not ideas, concepts, or discoveries.
Some works can be created but are not considered “creative” and therefore are not automatically protected by copyright laws. A few examples include:
- Symbols and designs
To protect these works, the creator usually needs to apply for a registered trademark.
What most people don’t realize is that everyone is a copyright owner. The instant that you create something that is a tangible form of expression, you are the owner of it. Under United States copyright laws, owners of original art have the following exclusive rights:
- The right to reproduce your work
- Distribute copies of your work by sale, lease, or lending
- Publicly perform the work
- Display your work
- Create more work based on the original
- Authorize others to share these rights
To learn more about copyrights and what they protect, check out this article .
How Do I Run a Copyright Search?
Running a copyright search can be complicated and confusing. You must know what you’re looking for, where to look, and how to find it. A great place to start is at the Library for Congress Copyright Office website, which has a searchable database.
Follow these steps to run a copyright search:
- Go to the Copyright website: Start your search by going to copyright.gov . On the Copyright homepage, there is an option to search copyright records.
- Locate the database: Click the link provided on the homepage that says, “ Search our Copyright Public Records Catalog online here .”
- Basic Search: This link will redirect you to the search feature for the catalog. There is an empty field labeled “search for,” where you can type your search.
Choose a method to search by: After typing in your search, choose from the dropdown list of methods that include:
- Registration number
- Document number
- Command keyword
- Run the search: Click the command “run search” to reveal a list of results. You have the option to choose how many results will show on the page and how the results are sorted.
If you are having difficulties finding the copyright you are looking for, you can choose the “Other Search Options” tab to run a more narrowed and direct search with set limits.
Consider following these tips to make conducting a copyright search more manageable and more productive:
Tip #1: Determine what you are looking for. Your search methods could vary depending on what you are looking for. This is especially true about the date of the work you are trying to locate. All copyright records from 1978 on are recorded in the database on the Copyright Office website. Searching for something before that date may make your search more complicated.
Tip #2: Copyrighted works before 1978. If you already know that the work you are searching for was created before 1978, you shouldn’t waste your time with an online search. When searching copyrights before 1978 you can visit the Library of Congress in Washington DC. Here, a card catalog can be accessed in person. For people in other parts of the country, most public libraries carry a copy of the CCE or Catalog of Copyright Entries.
Tip #3: Narrow your search. Your search methods will differ whether you are trying to identify the actual owner of a work or if you are just trying to see if the work has entered public domain. Any work that was published before 1923 will be in the public domain. Works published between 1923 and 1963 are protected for 28 years if the copyright was not renewed and 95 years if the copyright was renewed. If the work you are looking for was published later than 1923, you can assume it is copyrighted.
Tip #4: Hire a professional to help. Conducting a copyright search on your own can be tedious and confusing. You can contact an intellectual property lawyer to assist you in your search if you are having trouble.
Image via Pexels by Andrea
Checking For Copyrighted Names
It is possible to run a search for the name of a copyrighted piece of work. This can be done through a basic search on the Copyright Public Records Catalog online by selecting “Name” from the “search by” dropdown list.
However, actual names cannot be copyrighted, so there is no need to check for them. To copyright an original work, it must be a creative work or a tangible form of expression . The Supreme Court does not classify names in this protected category.
Names can still be considered intellectual property, and there are other ways that a person can protect their name. If individuals want to have exclusive rights to their name or a slogan, they can submit a trademark application to the United States Patent and Trademark Office. More information about this process can be found on the USPTO website .
If the application is approved, the name or slogan is now protected intellectual property. This gives the owner similar exclusive rights like copyright.
Who Needs a Copyright Search?
A copyright search is needed by anyone who plans to create something tangible and wants to be sure that they are not copying someone else’s work. This can apply to artists, musicians, writers, or any other person who creates a fixed work.
Copyright protection is established as soon as the creative work comes to fruition, and the original artist has exclusive rights to their work. If the work is duplicated, distributed, or altered, the original creator can sue for copyright infringement.
Conducting a copyright search will help you avoid duplicating copyrighted work and save you from a potential lawsuit from the original creator.
Get Help with a Copyright Search
Do you have questions about running 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.
Meet some of our Copyright Search Lawyers
August 22, 2020
Terry Brennan is an experienced corporate, intellectual property and emerging company transactions attorney who has been a partner at two national Wall Street law firms and a trusted corporate counsel. He focuses on providing practical, cost-efficient and creative legal advice to entrepreneurs, established enterprises and investors for business, corporate finance, intellectual property and technology transactions. As a partner at prominent law firms, Terry's work centered around financing, mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures, securities transactions, outsourcing and structuring of business entities to protect, license, finance and commercialize technology, manufacturing, digital media, intellectual property, entertainment and financial assets. As the General Counsel of IBAX Healthcare Systems, Terry was responsible for all legal and related business matters including health information systems licensing agreements, merger and acquisitions, product development and regulatory issues, contract administration, and litigation. Terry is a graduate of the Georgetown University Law Center, where he was an Editor of the law review. He is active in a number of economic development, entrepreneurial accelerators, veterans and civic organizations in Florida and New York.
August 24, 2020
I'm a Washington-licensed lawyer specializing in trademark practice and with an extensive trademark education and academic background. I currently work with domestic and international businesses seeking trademark protection in the U.S. by conducting trademark searches, providing legal advice, submitting USPTO applications, and preparing responses to office actions. I'm passionate about trademark law and always looking forward to helping small and medium businesses promote their value by having a registered federal trademark. If you have questions or concerns about trademark/copyright/IP licensing and require legal advice, feel free to contact me so we can have a first chat.
August 24, 2020
I have 10 years experience providing general counsel, in the form practical and timely legal advice, under strict deadlines to individuals and various business unit stakeholders, balancing commercial needs with legal concerns at large corporations and start-ups. I am skilled at reviewing, analyzing, drafting and negotiating commercial and government contracts globally for the procurement and sale of services and goods. I also help clients ensure compliance with regulations (including data privacy), laws and contractual obligations and protect, enforce and exploit intellectual property rights and support in the development of IP strategy. I am a Certified Information Privacy Professional/United States (CIPP/US) licensed by the IAPP - International Association of Privacy Professionals.
August 25, 2020
Over 15 year experience drafting, reviewing and negotiating contracts both as in-house counsel and in law firms, including my own law firm.
August 18, 2020
William L Foster has been practicing law since 2006 as an attorney associate for a large litigation firm in Denver, Colorado. His experience includes drafting business contracts, organizational filings, and settlement agreements.
August 24, 2020
Mr. Pomeranz serves as the principal of Pomeranz Law PLLC, a boutique law firm representing clients across myriad industries and verticals. Before founding the firm, Mr. Pomeranz served as Senior Vice President, Legal & Compliance and General Counsel of Mortgage Connect, LP in 2017. Mr. Pomeranz also served as Counsel, Transactions for Altisource Portfolio Solutions S.A. (NASDAQ: ASPS) beginning in 2013, and was based in the company’s C-Suite in Luxembourg City, Luxembourg. Mr. Pomeranz began his career with Mainline Information Systems, Inc. as an in-house attorney.
August 25, 2020
Rinky S. Parwani began her career practicing law in Beverly Hills, California handling high profile complex litigation and entertainment law matters. Later, her practice turned transactional to Lake Tahoe, California with a focus on business startups, trademarks, real estate resort development and government law. After leaving California, she also served as in-house counsel for a major lending corporation headquartered in Des Moines, Iowa as well as a Senior Vice President of Compliance for a fortune 500 mortgage operation in Dallas, Texas prior to opening Parwani Law, P.A. in Tampa, Florida. She has represented various sophisticated individual, government and corporate clients and counseled in a variety of litigation and corporate matters throughout her career. Ms. Parwani also has prior experience with state and federal consumer lending laws for unsecured credit cards, revolving credit, secured loans, retail credit, sales finance and mortgage loans. She also has served as a special magistrate and legal counsel for numerous Florida County Value Adjustment Boards. Her practice varies significantly from unique federal and state litigation cases to transactional matters. Born and raised in Des Moines, Iowa, Ms. Parwani worked in private accounting for several years prior to law school. Her background includes a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) certificate from Iowa (currently the license is inactive) and a Certified Management Accountant (CMA) designation (currently the designation is inactive). Ms. Parwani or the firm is currently a member of the following organizations: Hillsborough County Bar Association, American Bar Association, Tampa Bay Bankruptcy Bar Association, National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys, and the American Immigration Lawyers Association. She is a Fellow of the American Bar Association. Ms. Parwani is a frequent volunteer for Fox Channel 13 Tampa Bay Ask-A-Lawyer. She has published an article entitled "Advising Your Client in Foreclosure" in the Stetson Law Review, Volume 41, No. 3, Spring 2012 Foreclosure Symposium Edition. She is a frequent continuing legal education speaker and has also taught bankruptcy seminars for the American Bar Association and Amstar Litigation. She was commissioned by the Governor of Kentucky as a Kentucky Colonel. In addition, she teaches Immigration Law, Bankruptcy Law and Legal Research and Writing as an adjunct faculty instructor at the Hillsborough Community College Ybor campus in the paralegal studies program.